Happy Spotify Wrapped Day! It’s that time of year again where half of your social media feed is clogged with graphics from Spotify’s annual, personalized roundup, and the other half is people whining that they don’t care about your Spotify Wrapped.
Spotify Wrapped shows listeners their most-played songs and artists, along with other fun surprises. This year, the roundup added a new feature called “Sound Town,” which matches users to a city where residents share their music taste. For fans of certain folky indie rock artists, Burlington, Vermont was weirdly popular, especially since the town only has a population of about 44,000. Weirdly popular enough that people on Reddit and X are talking about why we’ve all been assigned Vermonter by Spotify…. weirdly popular enough that several people have joked that Burlington’s tourism board paid off Spotify and, yes, weirdly popular enough that I made a spreadsheet and collected data about the listening habits of people who share the music tastes of Burlington.
From 20 assigned-Burlingtonians who shared their listening data with me, certain bands like boygenius and Big Thief were disproportionately popular — this includes the work of the solo artists who make up these two bands: Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker and Adrienne Lenker, all of whom are queer, and who have particularly large fan bases among queer women.
The Grammy-nominated artists Big Thief and boygenius may not be household names (yet), but they’re popular enough to have some sway in Spotify’s data. Big Thief has 2.8 million monthly Spotify listeners; boygenius has 4.4 million. This influence is likely compounded in Spotify’s dataset, since someone who listens to boygenius also probably listens to Phoebe Bridgers (10.5 million monthly listeners), who also listens to Lucy Dacus (1.7 million), and so on.
The cultural relevance of boygenius among young queer people cannot be overstated, and evidently, it’s enough to form a trend in Spotify Wrapped data. In a profile for Them called “The Infinite Gay Joy of Boygenius,” Lex McMenamin defines the pull that bands like boygenius have for queer fans: “[boygenius’ recent album] asks important questions about faith, death, trust, and relationships, but for once, they come from minds that believe that women and trans and queer people and people of color are people, that people deserve basic income and a job and a home, that we should be allowed to live. Rock music as a whole can’t even achieve that standard in 2023.”
Per Spotify Wrapped, people in Burlington are also more likely to be fans of Ethel Cain, HAIM, Palehound, Samia, Radiator Hospital, Indigo De Souza, Rilo Kiley, Car Seat Headrest and other acts in similar genres, several of whom are queer.
Per the Burlington mayor on the town’s official website, Burlingtonians tend to be “diverse and forward-thinking” and “steeped in arts and culture.” A friend who lives in Burlington (and who also got Burlington on their Wrapped) put it more bluntly: “tbh we have a lot of sad gay college students with wide varieties of music tastes,” they told me on Discord. When I posted on X that I was looking into what’s up with Burlington and boygenius, another person responded: “this is because Burlington is the lesbian capital of the US. hope this helps <3”
People with adjacent music taste also found themselves pegged to places like Cambridge, Massachusetts and Berkeley, California. In a post with 33,000 likes, @brokebackstan wrote, “spotify is trying to make a gay commune in berkeley, a lesbian commune in burlington, and a bisexual commune in cambridge.” Another user, @worms5brain wrote, “Why has every gay person got burlington usa as their wrapped location.” Writer Abby Monteil wrote, “does she…you know…have spotify listening habits in common with berkeley, burlington, or cambridge?”
Spotify said in a statement to TechCrunch, “Sound Town was created to show users how their listening habits are shared by communities everywhere. The Sound Town selected for each eligible user has the most similar taste profile to their own – based on their most streamed artists of the year and how those artists are streamed in other cities across the globe. It is objective and entirely driven by a user’s listening history.”
Just about 0.6% of fans will get Burlington as their Sound Town, out of 1,300 possible locations. Still, that’s about 7.8 times higher than the average would be if there were an even distribution of users among each of the 1,300 places (0.07%).
Even Spotify’s X account acknowledged the anomaly:
What makes the Burlington situation stranger, though, is that some people assigned the town had a completely different music taste, preferring “dad rock” bands like Steely Dan and Grateful Dead. Fair enough — Burlington is not a monolith. But the data gets even further skewed by the ultimate wild card, a woman whose powers are great enough to completely mess up anyone’s Spotify Wrapped: Taylor Swift.
Taylor Swift is the most-streamed artist across all of Spotify, with 107.7 million monthly listeners. That’s about 2,447 Burlingtons. Naturally, she appears in this subset of pseudo Burlington resident Spotify listeners, because she is everywhere and unavoidable in a way that is as fascinating as it is terrifying. Out of the 20 people’s data that I have, Taylor Swift appears in listeners’ Top 5 artists eight times. Then again, this is likely true of other Sound Towns, since no one is immune to Taylor. Not even the NFL.
Another factor is the rising folk star Noah Kahan, with 24.9 million monthly listeners, who is from Strafford, Vermont, population 1,094. Strafford is about an hour and a half away from Burlington by car, but hometown pride for the singer-songwriter radiates across the Green Mountain State. Kahan’s 2023 album “Stick Season” shot him to the top of the Billboard charts, but his collaborations with artists like Hozier (also a favorite in Burlington) and Post Malone helped expose him to a wider audience. So, Kahan fans have been finding themselves getting assigned Burlington as well.
So far, these artists haven’t acknowledged their potentially newfound relationship with Burlington, Vermont. But maybe on their next tour, boygenius will stop in Burlington, if there’s even a venue big enough to handle them.