Music industry

Is Discz the hottest new recommendation tool in the music industry?

Bobby Pinckney went to bed one night last August as a management consultant and woke up the next morning as the man behind one of the world’s most popular music apps. Discz, a song recommendation tool that Pinckney started as a class project during his senior year at USC, has captured the imagination of TikTokers. After several clips praising the app went viral, it reached the top of the App Store’s music section in a handful of major markets – the UK, Germany – and reached the number 12 in the United States.

It was all the more shocking since Discz was still an ongoing side project and Pinckney had yet to spend a dime on promotion. “We don’t even support other languages ​​yet, but we’ve had over half a million views in Colombia, France and Brazil talking about the app,” he says, still slightly amazed. . “We have users in over 200 countries, even before we run an ad.”

In the months since that first eruption of interest, Pinckney, 24, and Michelle Yin, his 26-year-old co-founder, quit their jobs, raised money, and got involved in improving Discz. They believe it can play a key role in discovering music at a time when listeners are drowning in new tunes and there are few reliable ways to help make sense or give shape to this overwhelming deluge.

In particular, the co-founders of Discz want to bridge the chasm that has grown between TikTok, the most fertile space for new music, and older streaming platforms like Spotify, which has recognized that we have to do better to hook the very important demographic group of young people. “We were built for millennials,” said Spotify co-founder Daniel Ek. Bloomberg in December. “I’m not a Gen Zer, and that’s something I’m well aware of. I try to hang out with young people who are pushing the company to go Gen Z, and later, Gen Alpha .

In a world where many young listeners are discovering their new favorite tracks on TikTok, “there’s a drop off when it comes to people who are going to record those songs on Spotify,” says Pinckney. The Discz team is trying to fight this downturn, while betting that their generation is more interested in getting music recommendations from someone like them than an executive from a big tech company. “We’re tired of algorithms deciding what’s trending, or editorial teams deciding what you should listen to,” says Yin, who was a senior software engineer at Facebook before taking over as chief technology officer at Discz.

The elevator pitch for Discz – and the way breathless fans explained the app on TikTok – is Spotify meets Tinder. The app recommends a slew of songs to you based on your past listening preferences and plays you TikTok-sized snippets of each. You swipe left or right depending on your feelings on each track; those you like are automatically added to a Spotify playlist for you.

It’s great fun, but the most powerful aspects of Discz encourage users to interact with each other, especially through a TikTok-like feed that lets you see what other listeners play, sample a 15 second snippet of it and save it if you like it. The app then presents users with “plugs” – you get one each time you present someone a new song and they save it – rather than likes. “Someone will only save a song if they like it, but haven’t heard it yet,” Pinckney says. “So it doesn’t reward compliance.”

Masn, whose viral hit “Psycho! won him a contract with RCA Records, is one of Discz’s most prominent users. “Everyone has a shorter attention span these days,” he says. “You’re not going to spend an hour or two looking for new music. And that way you get rewarded for showing people new music they love.

As TikTok has grown more popular, a new generation of would-be tastemakers have emerged on the app, trying to steer their many followers to new music. And the members of this group have now started to gravitate to Discz, where they gain influence based on how many new songs they present to people. “If you’re a curator trying to build an audience, it’s really hard on Spotify because it’s really oversaturated,” says Annabelle Kline-Zilles, who sells bespoke playlists under the That Good Sh*t brand and also manages the young rapper Diz. “There’s not a lot of room for discovery of the playlists themselves, and Spotify editorial playlists are prioritized on the platform.” Also, “you can’t see the kind of real numbers and interaction you get on a playlist.”

On the other hand, continues Kline-Zilles, “on Discz, you can see who put this nobody on this song.” His “best underground hip hop” playlist has already generated 1,950 saves spread across little-known bands like Dre Wave$, Jay Hollywood, and his own band Diz. “As a manager, [Discz] is a new avenue to get music from someone you work with,” adds Kline-Zilles.

People are intrigued enough by Discz that when the latest version of the app launched last week, user interest crashed its servers. (“A lot of the early technical challenges were about how the app could handle a load of hundreds of thousands at a time,” Yin says.) Once Yin and others took care of the server problem, the application has cracked. the Top Ten in the music section of the US App Store.

Yin points out that she is in the process of building the plane while she is flying it – due to the eruption of interest in August, she and Pinckney have been on the throttle to create an improved version as quickly as possible. Some features, like adding comments, are still missing. But more than 15 million songs have been discovered and recorded on the app so far. “We’re still a little nervous about posting this because it’s so early,” Yin says. “But we wanted to get it into people’s hands.”