In 2016, Spotify released a feature that allowed users to see their listening habits throughout the year. At the time, the feature sent out an email link to a microsite. Now, a user’s listening data is presented on the app in a video format shareable to Instagram stories and other social media platforms.
The feature is called “Spotify Wrapped,” and the updated version of the design was stolen from an intern.
Jewel Ham worked as a Spotify design intern for three months in 2019. She was 21 years old and about to enter her senior year at Howard University.
She developed an elaborate concept and presented it to people at the company. It was received well.
“I was a person that had Spotify and loved Wrapped, but it was just a link they would send at the end of the year,” she said in an interview with Refinery.
She envisioned a more interactive presentation which flowed well into the social media ecosystem.
“They liked the idea. That was my last day,” she continued.
The three-month internship was over, but the idea was just beginning.
When the new and improved Spotify Wrapped was first released in 2019, Ham kept silent about the striking similarities. As the new design gained popularity, she felt it necessary to step forward.
On Dec. 2, 2020, she took to Twitter to voice her frustration, admitting she invented the story concept and Spotify has not looked back since stealing it.
She told Refinery she was not surprised about the development of her idea going uncredited.
“This was not my first corporate position, so I know that’s not really the practice,” Ham said in the interview. “Because the reality is, at the end of the day, they legally have the right to. That’s the reason it’s such an issue.”
Corporations like Spotify own all their intern content, and those interns are often unpaid or receive a measly stipend, according to the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.
A stipend is not nearly enough for someone like Ham, who had to work independently throughout the internship. She told Refinery their broad assignment was to make Spotify Wrapped appeal more to younger generations.
She said she enjoyed the internship because of the people and the benefits, but there is much to consider outside of that.
“I feel like I have to distance myself a bit from all those benefits because that doesn’t translate into any type of compensation for such a large idea,” Ham said in the interview.
The original concept can be viewed on Ham’s website, where she is described as a multidisciplinary visual artist, curator and educator. She uses her practice as a means of reparation and resistance.
She has had four solo exhibitions throughout her career, all taking place in historical spaces within the Black community. She does not wish to speak on Spotify anymore but encourages audiences to follow her art through socials and her website.
If you are looking to switch to a separate listening platform, there are helpful links to transfer playlists and your library.
Additionally, if you want to continue to track your listens and view your stats throughout the year without supporting Spotify, Last.fm is a site that is both accurate and free.