Synergyzer: Firstly, congratulations on yet another successful Wrapped year! What difference did the company see in this year’s Wrapped compared to last year?

Talha Hashim: Thank you! Wrapped has always been an important celebration for us and bringing it to Pakistan has been an exceptional experience on its own. Wrapped 2023 was a huge hit amongst the users of Spotify which we can tell on the basis of the Wrapped experience getting much higher engagement levels vs 2022. This goes on to show how the Pakistani audiences are falling in love with the Wrapped experience and are keen to flaunt it for their family and friends across social platforms.

As always, going beyond the traditional metrics of top artists, genres, and songs, Wrapped 2023 was all about celebrating artists and the music they created throughout the year which resonates well with the audiences and the fans. Wrapped 2023 also introduced an array of innovative features, delving deep into the depths of the audience’s listening habits and revealing what fans were really feeling throughout the year. For instance, one feature that was a hit among the Pakistani listeners was ‘Sound Town’ which matches listeners with a city based on their listening habits and shared artist affinity, and we saw exciting conversations around it on social platforms as well.

In Pakistan this year, we kicked off the campaign in style with the Wrapped Party in Karachi, focusing on food and music- our country’s two biggest passion points, and bringing together artists and fans to celebrate this moment. We took this approach also because Fan-favorite elements received a refreshing update in Wrapped 2023, and The Top 5 Genres story adopted a sandwich-inspired design to showcase how individual users’ top five music genres stack up throughout the year.

Synergyzer: How do you plan to leverage this year’s data from Spotify Wrapped 2023 to enhance the platform’s marketing strategies for 2024?

Talha Hashim: We continually aim to provide our users with a highly personalized and tailored experience that aligns with their daily routines, music preferences, and individual likes and dislikes. Our approach combines algorithm-based playlists with the curation skills of local music editors, creating a distinctive blend of machine learning and human oversight. This unique combination ensures that we deliver nothing but the best music experience to our listeners, contributing significantly to the growth and popularity of Spotify in Pakistan, as you can see in our support of Pakistan’s famous content creator, Irfan Junejo, who also enjoys this mix of playlists, and recently shared his favorite restaurants, artists and Spotify’s playlists in our For The Record’s Discovery Monday series.

Synergyzer: How have user’s music preferences changed on Spotify in the last 2 years, considering that more people are now using the platform and now you have a bigger dataset? Also, how many music lovers from Pakistan are on the platform?

Talha Hashim: Over the past two years, Spotify has observed evolving music preferences among Pakistani users. While filmi, modern Bollywood, and desi pop remain popular, there’s a noticeable shift towards Punjabi music and Indie genres. Notably, “Punjabi Pop” has seen a significant surge, with an increase of +120%. In the realm of local indie music, artists like Hassan Raheem and Abdul Hannan have made remarkable impacts. Abdul Hannan’s “Bikhra”, “Siyah”, and “Haaray” have particularly resonated with listeners, with the first two becoming the most streamed tracks on Spotify in 2023. Similarly, Hassan Raheem has established a unique presence with hits such as “Faltu Pyar”, “Wishes”, and “Aisay Kaisay”. These trends reflect a diversifying musical landscape on Spotify in Pakistan, showcasing a blend of traditional and contemporary preferences among music enthusiasts.

Synergyzer: As the demographic on Spotify in Pakistan expands, what shifts have you observed in the consumer behavior towards different music genres, particularly those representing Pakistani cultural diversity?

Talha Hashim: In Pakistan, Spotify’s expanding user base has led to fascinating shifts in musical preferences, particularly in genres that reflect the country’s cultural diversity. One standout trend is the remarkable rise in the popularity of “Desi Hip-Hop,” which has seen an astounding increase of +125% in 2023. Additionally, “Urdu Hip Hop” has taken a prominent position, witnessing a growth of almost 75% in streams in 2023. This genre’s success is largely attributed to artists like Talha Anjum, Talhah Yunus, Young Stunners, Faris Shafi, and Aleemrk, who are topping the charts and defining this musical shift.

Synergyzer: You are the Marketing Manager of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka – Which music industry has grown more over the years and what are some of the common listening habits the three nations share? 

Talha Hashim: First and foremost, Pakistan, with its buzzing music scene and significant contribution to the South Asian music industry, it has enabled the industry to grow and prosper at a very fast pace We all witnessed how “Pasoori” became the first ever Pakistani song that hit the top 3 on Spotify’s Global Viral 50 list, proving its global appeal and went on to become the most streamed Pakistani song globally as per Wrapped 2022 data. Then, we also have Fresh Finds artists like AUR finding global fandom with their song, Tu Hai Kahan, by making it to the  Daily Viral Songs Global chart, dominating Daily Charts in Pakistan in the last quarter of 2023 and finally collaborating with Zayn Malik, renowned British singer and former member of One Direction, for a remake of Tu Hai Kahan in early 2024.

Spotify itself has played a vital role in bringing Pakistani music to the global stage by featuring the best-performing music in our global playlists, which resulted in unlocking new audiences and geographies for Pakistani music and artists. While Spotify’s signature programs like EQUAL, RADAR and Fresh Finds are constantly promoting artists both on and off the platform, we are always finding avenues to go an extra mile in elevating Pakistani artists at a global scale. The launch of Talal Qureshi’s album “TURBO” symbolises this commitment as this was the first time a Pakistani artist to be featured on the LED screens at Estadio Olímpico Lluís Companys, the official FC Barcelona Stadium in Spain, TURBO being featured at the iconic Times Square Billboard for an entire week and the album’s launch on the ground at the Pakka Hit Hai Gig in October 2023.

Talking about the region, with Sri Lanka being an exception due to strong local content consumption, Desi music itself has been popular across Pakistan and Bangladesh, and we often see similar music trending in both countries. In addition, we have Mobile First users (over 90%) on the service in these markets who are mainly under 25 years old. Saturday, Sunday and Monday are the days with highest music consumption, especially in the evening hours. We have witnessed Gen-Z taking the lead in shaping music trends and consumption behaviors by highlighting fresher genres and artists on the platform making them an integral part of our target audience moving forward.

Synergyzer: In the context of the EQUAL Pakistan playlist featuring female artists prominently, how do you foresee this influencing consumer behavior and fostering a more inclusive music environment in Pakistan?

Talha Hashim: The EQUAL Pakistan playlist, focusing on female artists, has already made a significant impact on consumer behaviour, promoting inclusivity in Pakistan’s music scene. Since its inception, EQUAL ambassadors like Hadiqa Kiani and Aima Baig have seen enormous growth in streaming numbers, with increases of 387% and 53% respectively. Additionally, Natasha Humera Ejaz and Shae Gill have experienced significant increases in streams, highlighting the rising popularity of female artists.

Adding to this momentum, our recent promotion of Nehal Naseem as the EQUAL ambassador for January 2024, and Annural Khalid being featured as the first female RADAR artist for Q1, including her fresh documentary, has further elevated these artists’ profiles. Both Nehal Naseem and Annural Khalid have gained massive acclaim through their features on Spotify’s programs previously including Fresh Finds and EQUAL Pakistan. Similarly, Natasha Noorani, another EQUAL ambassador and a rising star in the music industry, was given the platform of the Pakka Hit Hai gig to showcase her talent and interact with her fans. This shows Spotify’s commitment to nurturing talent by moving artists from one music program to another, elevating their reach and fostering a diverse music environment in and outside of Pakistan.

Synergyzer: In your conversation with Synergyzer last year, you mentioned that the Wrapped was shared 60 million times in 2021, now in 2023, how much did the number increase and is there any specific number for the Pakistani market?

Talha Hashim: Regarding the Wrapped campaign’s reach in 2023, while it is too early in the campaign for us to reveal specific local numbers, I would like to mention that the engagement overall has been incredibly positive.

Synergyzer: What are Spotify’s future plans to cater to the changing user behaviors and consumption patterns?

Talha Hashim: Spotify’s future strategy is centred on enhancing personalization and music discovery for our users by focusing on innovative features like AI DJ, Blend and Daylist among others. AI DJ was also integrated in Wrapped 2023 and stood out for us as Spotify’s commitment to bringing artificial intelligence (AI) into our Music Experience. Similarly, Blend, one of our hottest features, allowed listeners for the very first time, to invite friends to create a Blend and tap the ‘2023 Wrapped Top Songs’ filter to combine all of their top songs from the year into one shared playlist.

To stay closer to the local music industry and fans, Spotify also introduced ‘Pakka Hit Hai’ in 2022, a flagship that features the best of current Pakistani hits, and launched a series of gigs under this flagship last year to allow the artists to connect with their fans through live events. Under the same flagship, Spotify also collaborated with Future Fest 2024 as the official music streaming partner, featuring 50 artists at the music festival over 3 days.

To conclude, Spotify’s core objective is to tailor the listening experience to each user’s preferences and habits through our pool of exciting features and offerings. By leveraging advanced technologies and providing the best in-app and product experience, we aim to keep pace with evolving consumption patterns and offer an increasingly intuitive and enjoyable user experience.

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Hamna Farrukh is a high-on-life but low-on-energy writer who found her passion for writing after completing a degree in Economics, which is carefully kept in a folder somewhere in a drawer. Her interest in marketing and advertisement peaked while working for Ishtehari, and finally, Synergyzer gave her bickering thoughts a much-needed voice through the platform to talk about shitty ads (some good ones) being made in Pakistan.