It’s that time of year – everyone is reviewing. I’ve got to jump on the bandwagon because – wow, what a year we’ve had! I can’t let 2016 pass without a look back at the biggest event in Team HR: Social’s history.
2016 was an amazing milestone in our journey. It was our 10th anniversary year. And all big milestones mean a celebration.
Especially in the Spotify world, where one of the objectives of team HR:Social is to help celebrate company achievements. No matter whether the thing we’re celebrating is linked to Daniel and Martin specifically, the marketing team, the finance team, the product team, or whoever – we’re all part of the success. Each one of us contributes to the overall success of Spotify and celebrating company achievements creates a sense of pride and belonging for all employees.
In early June we hosted a company-wide celebration event in Stockholm. We called it Celebration X. Yes – I did say company-wide, and yes, that did mean bringing all 2,500 Spotifiers into Sweden for two days of inspiration, fun and togetherness.
Events like this are important for a company growing and changing as fast as Spotify. We created the opportunity for us all to come together, look back on what we’ve achieved with pride, work together on new projects or get the wheels in motion to thinking about things in new ways, and show ourselves and the world how great we can be and what we can achieve when we work together. And of course, it’s extremely important to balance that with some partying too! Especially with fantastic live music.
Celebration X: The Introduction
It was day one. The first time we’d all be in one room together.
Most companies would have their CEO open up. The first person to speak. But we wanted to make it more Spotify-ish. Not to disrespect to Daniel, of course, but we needed some live music – we are Spotify after-all!
Sung-Kyu, a previous touring and recording artist, and a long-time Spotifier, took to the stage to do his own rendition of Fred Astaire’s, Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off. Since the audience was from more than 25 offices around the world, he’d wittily changed the lyrics to highlight that although there are often big differences between our cultures and the way we do things, we are still one big family, and have often pulled together in the face of adversity to deliver amazing things!
Daniel was next up. I don’t think I’ve seen him look more proud of his Spotify crew. He seemed a little overwhelmed to be speaking to all 2,500 of us. Those that have joined the band to help him achieve his dream. And he talked much to that effect. I’m not gonna dive into detail on what he said – that’s for Spotifiers only! 😉
The final part of our intro was to showcase the Spotifiers talent of collaborating, being creative and humorous. We did this with a video we’d been making for a few weeks. Great atmosphere builder, with many from the far-flung offices recognising themselves and each other as they danced, acted and lip-synched to different parts of an extended remixed version of LMFAO’s Sexy And I Know It.
Celebration X: The Tracks
Some people like to celebrate with partying. Some like cake. Some like time to reflect and some like to celebrate by learning more and being inspired. We recognise that many Spotifiers are different and we wanted to make sure everyone could celebrate in their favourite way. So the rest of day one was all about reflection and learning.
We curated 10 interactive workstreams (a.k.a tracks). Each Spotifier could choose their favourite, and there was something for everyone in the mix. For example, there was a track on Opportunity Markets, where participants heard first-hand from experts on Latin American music, a film-maker and a hip hop artist from Mongolia. There was another on Creativity & Collaboration, which workshopped using music and tech to explore the nature of creativity, leadership, community and successful collaboration. We even opened Pandora’s Box in a track that debated whether the future was doom and gloom or hope and glory!
Whichever track Spotifiers chose, during the day they felt proud of what we have achieved, of what they are part of, and inspired when looking at the future – many of them looking at the world through and slightly altered lens. But that’s not enough for one day – not at a big celebration like this anyway!
Celebration X: Spotify’s Got Talent 2016
Following a day of inspiration and learning, it was time for Spotify to show off it’s founding city to all the visiting band members. Direct from the tracks, Spotifiers went en-masse to boats which ferried the thousands of us out of the city and into the edge of Europe’s largest archipelago to the stunning Vaxholm Kastellet (fortress).
The setting was perfect. Clear blue skies, no sun set (Swedish summer), a huge space in a beautiful venue, delicious BBQ food, and a big stage. It had a real festival feeling about it. The only thing missing was the entertainment. And who better to entertain our crowds than ourselves! We have a history of getting Spotifiers to take the centre place on stage and entertain the crowd, from our first ever (now annual) talent show, Spotify’s Got Talent, in 2013, to regular open mic nights in the New York office, talks and performances throughout the year in our Boston office and regular outstanding home-made music videos from the Brussels team – to name just a few.
So having everyone together and giving them chance to show off their talents gained a huge response from the Spotifiers. During the evening we had performances from more than 50 Spotifiers, with acts ranging from acoustic solo, to covers bands, to classical music, and groups with a brass section. Our very own Head of Copy, Paul and Lead Developer, Brian, also avid musicians in their spare time, hosted the whole show – in a very stylish fashion!
The night was a huge success. Personally one of my favourites at Spotify. Everybody mingled, marvelling at the beauty of their surroundings and talent of their co-workers. It was sad it came to an end, but all good things have to. And we had a pretty packed plan to look forward to the next day.
Celebration X: Project Impossible
The second day started with equally high ambitions. We had a big challenge set for us – a project impossible. The idea was that we would try to achieve one impossible thing before lunch. Together, we aimed going to produce something the world has never seen before.
The best place to take on such a daunting task, was of course an arena! So the Spotifiers were transported to the tunnel entrance of Tele2 arena. We used smoke machines and lighting to create an electric atmosphere. The impact when walking onto a pitch in an arena can not be overlooked. The Spotifiers were wowed. The day before it had felt like so many people crammed into one room, but this day it could be more accurately described as just a small bunch in a huge space.
The challenge was to work collaboratively in Stockholm to stage a concert happening in London. If we were successful, we would be able to give back the gift of music to students and fans, giving them the opportunity to experience the intimate feeling of a Spotify office session.
How do 2,500 people in one city manage to produce a concert in another city in a matter of hours? Well, the Spotifiers were divided into groups, each responsible for an area of the concert production, such as sound and lights, or artist relations. Within those groups they completed tasks to unlock elements of the concert production, seeing each other’s progress and watching the set-up over live stream.
And of course – as all of us Spotifiers know (collaboration is one of our core values) the better we collaborate, the more effective we are. When we’re working well together, seemingly impossible things can happen. So the concert with Pumarosa went ahead in London!
But before we watched the stream of the concert it was time to show off another Swedish tradition with a Midsummer lunch. We had the classic Midsummer music performed by actors who wore the traditional dress and those who wanted to got to make their own kransen (a crown of flowers worn on the head). But most surprisingly we had almost all 2,500 people taking part in the renowned ‘Små Grodorna’. Imagine that! Thousands of Spotifiers dancing like frogs around the biggest Midsummer pole any of us had ever seen – in the middle of Tele2 arena!
Straight after it was time to indulge or maybe just try, pickled herring and all the delicacies of the Midsummer table. All the while enjoying a concert from Pumarosa streamed over the big screens. We even saw messages from the audience and could send messages to each other showing our appreciation.
Celebration X: The Celebration
The ‘Celebration’ took place on the night of the last evening. We’d had a couple of hours rest after achieving the impossible, and took time to eat a nice dinner and socialise with each other at various restaurants across Stockholm city. Then we all assembled at a warehouse venue on the outskirts of town.
Following two days of work, inspiration, and feeling of pride, we were ready to let our hair down and party hard.
With entertainment from DJ Viet Naam, Moneybrother & Howlin’ Pelle with Patrik Kolar & his funky friends, The Royal Concept, The Shadow Boxers, Mark Ronson and Axwell Ingrosso! And what better than to top a night off, than a surprise impromptu appearance and performance from Justin Timberlake. And yes, it was us Spotifiers who taught JT, “Skål för fan!”.
Celebrating the celebration
So, as you can see this feels like quite an achievement for our small social team of just three. So I couldn’t possibly let the moment pass without celebrating our achievement in producing this event. So here’s to you team Social, and all the other Spotifiers who had a hand in the tracks or talent show: Skål för fan!