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The mystery of Spotify’s truly messed up Korn ornaments

The mystery of Spotify’s truly messed up Korn ornaments

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If you received a Korn-themed ornament (otherwise known as a “Kornament”) as a holiday gift from the music streaming service Spotify this year, I have two questions for you:

  • Why didn’t you send me an email as I so politely requested via my public tweets several days ago?
  • What did you have to do?

Spotify sent ornaments “inspired by” the artwork for Korn’s recent album The Serenity of Suffering to an undisclosed number of people. Undisclosed by choice — I asked and a Spotify PR representative said “wish I had more for you.” A “Kornaments” playlist was also featured in the service’s year-end round-up of popular tunes. I can see that there are 882 people “following” this playlist but am not able to contact them personally, thanks to limitations imposed on me by the Spotify UI.

According to a release published on the company blog, ‘90s metal band Korn is one of “this year’s biggest acts” (emphasis mine), alongside DNCE, Young Thug, Shawn Mendes, Sia, Fetty Wap, and Migos. When asked to clarify the definition of “this year’s biggest acts,” a Spotify representative told me that Korn’s single “Rotting in Vain” has been streamed 8.5 million times. I said “that doesn’t seem like a lot to me?” The PR rep said “Unfortunately, that’s all the info I have to share on this.”

In another mysterious exchange, I was told that Spotify identified Korn “superfans” by analyzing a number of factors including “how often they’re listening to an artist, how deep they’re venturing into the artist’s catalogue, and other factors.” (The same sentence was supplied by a second Spotify representative reached on a separate day.)

In a nightmarish promotional video, Spotify does not really elaborate on the unnamed factors.

I would love to know how many streams a person had to stream to get a Kornament, how “deep” one had to venture, and whether the barometer of devotion was the same for Korn fans as it was for say... Shawn Mendes fans, a group of people that has violently harangued me on Twitter in the past over the nonsensical suggestion that Shawn Mendes “is the Neon Demon.” This is isn’t because I doubt that many Korn superfans still exist. It’s because I once majored in a social science and it’s fascinating to see how several quantitative measures are amalgamated into a single qualitative designation like “superfan.” (I also doubt many Korn superfans still exist.)

In the video, Spotify did elaborate on what it thinks a Korn fan might look like, which is I guess this:

I lightly implied to Spotify that I needed to confirm the fact that these ornaments really went out in the mail and arrived at people’s homes and was told, “Yes, Spotify did mail them out.”

Unfortunately, no one online has admitted to receiving one and there aren’t any available for resale on popular alt shopping venues such as eBay, Craigslist, or Etsy. One Twitter user did express an expectation of receiving a Kornament, but did not respond to the request that they confirm its receipt and supply a photo.

I’ll take Spotify’s word for it but it would really help me sleep better at night if you would just tell me: did you get a Kornament? Why?

Update: At 10:55 AM on December 20th I received an email from a Verge reader who says Spotify informed him he was in the top 1 percent of Korn listeners this year.

Exhibit A
Exhibit A

Yet, this reader did not receive a Kornament from Spotify. Nor did he receive the promise of a Kornament, and went so far as to note “I didn't even know they were a thing until I saw the article.” He has promised to update us if this changes. For now: hmmmmmmm.

Update: On December 21st at 8:53 AM EST I received a screenshot of a correspondence between a Korn fan named Sophie and the Spotify Cares customer help line on Facebook messenger. Sophie is maybe receiving a Kornament? Or some other mysterious object from Spotify!

Update: Sophie also told The Verge, “I was thinking how you said they were going off how far you ventured into their music. Life is Peachy is like 20 years old and their second studio album, probably one of my favorites [and] most listened to as well.”

She promised to send a photo of whatever Spotify ultimately chooses to mail to her.

Update December 22nd 4:07 PM EST: Sophie won’t be getting a Kornament, and I give up. In a Facebook message, Spotify’s customer service informed her she will receive two free months of Spotify Premium because they ran out of “gifts” before they got to her. Okay, sure, I believe it.


Update December 24th 11:25 AM EST: After Kornaments were discussed on The Verge’s podcast The Vergecast, a Pittsburgh-based engineering, art, and design firm took credit for making them. Where did they end up? We still have no way of knowing.

Update January 17th 6:30 PM EST: A man named Coty contacted me on Facebook today and shared this photo of the Kornaments, which he says were mailed to a friend of his a few days ago. An interesting time to ship a holiday gift, but better late than never.