What if you could have your favourite song on speed dial, ready for any moment when you need it?
What’s known as a “Spotify tattoo” has made that possible.
On Spotify, every song has a bar code meant for sharing the content with someone when scanned with the camera function on Spotify’s mobile app. Get a code tattooed on your arm or another body part; it should immediately play the associated content when scanned.
That is when the tattoo has been done well, especially when it’s fresh. The Wall Street Journal, for example, has interviewed several people who reported their tattoos were no longer working once both the body art and their skin had started to age.
Spotify launched its codes in 2017. Exactly when the tattoo fad began isn’t clear, but on TikTok, videos tagged “#spotifytattoo” have garnered 14.8 million views. Ten million of these were on a viral clip of a UK-based tattoo artist showing off the results of a Spotify tat on his friend’s forearm — it played the friend’s wedding song, “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri.
“We love seeing listeners wear the audio they love on their sleeves and helping them rep their fandom,” Spotify told the Wall Street Journal.
Tattooing the codes can be stressful, especially in that moment of truth between finishing the piece and testing whether it works, said tattoo artist John Lapides of United Tattoo in Fountain, Colorado. Lapides has inked two Spotify tattoos: one connected to the Michael Bublé song “Everything” and another for “Gone Away” by the Offspring band.
“I told them, ‘If it is scannable, fantastic. If it’s not scannable, I’m sorry, but that’s part of the risk,’” Lapides said. “Lo and behold, when we finished, it was scannable.”
People get these tattoos for various reasons. Some want the fun party trick of flashing a phone at their arm to play Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” while others have more sentimental motivations.
The song choice of Lapides’ first Spotify code customer was related to a memory of their father, who passed away, he remembered. The customer shared that the tattoo “almost brought their dad back around,” Lapides said, “because now they can listen to the song and always have it.”
Other times, it’s simply a means of decorating the body, said Drew Hibbard, a tattoo artist and piercer at Blue Lotus Tattoo & The Piercing Lounge in Madison, Wisconsin. Hibbard has applied one Spotify tattoo.
“Life is short,” he added. I’ve fallen victim to getting quirky, fun tattoos just for the heck of it. … Each of my tattoos is like a time stamp for a part of my life.”
In conversations with CNN, Lapides and Hibbard, you discussed what to know if you’re considering having a favourite song immortalized on your body.
These conversations have been edited for clarity.
CNN: How do you tattoo a Spotify code?
John Lapides: Before the actual tattooing process, I’d take a picture of the code and, as I would for any other tattoo, print it out on a machine that had ink on the back of the page so I could transfer the design from the paper to the skin. That helped me know that all my straight lines were straight, all my parallel lines were parallel, and all my circles were circular. I follow those purple stencil lines with the tattoo machine as closely as possible, then do the shading on top.
Are there ways to maximize the chances of it working?
Lapides: Make sure the tattoo is done on a flatter body part so the camera can read it as quickly as possible with as little distortion as possible — I’m sure if it’s in some way rolling off the side of your arm, it will be harder to scan. I did both tattoos on my forearms; one was closer to the wrist, and the other was to the elbow.
Drew Hibbard: You don’t want it on your hands or feet because they don’t hold ink well, and they’re constantly being used.
Lapides: Line weight and thickness also play a huge role. The lines (in a Spotify code) vary in height, and if one of those lines is not straight or symmetrical on the top and bottom ends or the left and right, the tattoo might not be readable.
It’s also good to have the lines be a little thinner than needed at first because if it doesn’t work, you can thicken them — but you can’t remove thickness. As time passes, those lines will get thicker (as the skin stretches, ages, or loses elasticity). It would be best if you had gaps in between, which will always stay gaps.
Also, the tattoo doesn’t necessarily need the three lines within that little circular Spotify logo, but it does need the circle.
Will these tattoos age well over time?
Hibbard: Spotify tattoos are a super cute and meaningful idea, but years later, who knows if Spotify will even be a thing? Also, companies are constantly upgrading what they’re doing — who knows if they’ll switch to a QR code like everybody else.
Lapides: I’m unsure if these will be scannable 10 to 20 years from now. People lose weight, gain weight or get pregnant. But I’ve hopefully given them the best chance of being scannable by leaving gaps or space for the tattoo to expand and age.
Hibbard: That’s why you should also pick a size that will age well — doing a 4- or 5-inch tattoo leaves much more room than a 2-inch one. Doing the correct instructions aftercare also helps. Always moisturize.
How can someone find an adept tattoo artist or studio?
Lapides: Studios’ websites and Instagram are helpful resources; you can also find a reputable studio through good reviews or word of mouth. You can also visit the shop to understand their professionalism and respect for your input.
But not everyone in a reputable studio is created equal. Artists who do fine-line, traditional, geometric, or black-work styles — which revolve around immaculate line work — are good choices, but a watercolour tattoo artist might not do the cleanest piece.