Bobby Pinckney went to bed one night in August last year as a management consultant and woke up the following morning as the man behind one of the hottest music apps in the world. Discz, a song recommendation tool that Pinckney started as a class project during his final year at USC, has captured TikToker’s imagination. After several clips praising the app went viral, it shot to the top of the music section of the App Store in a handful of major markets – the UK, Germany – and reached number 12 in the US
This was all the more shocking as Discz was still largely a side project in progress and Pinckney had not yet spent a penny on promotion. “We do not even support other languages yet, but we had people in Colombia and France and Brazil who got more than half a million views and talked about the app,” he says, still sounding a bit amazed. “We have users in over 200 countries, even before we’ve ever run an ad.”
In the months following this first outburst of interest, 24-year-old Pinckney and Michelle Yin, his 26-year-old co-founder, quit their jobs, raised money and went all in to improve Discz. They believe it can play a key role in music discovery at a time when listeners are drowning in new tunes, and there are few reliable ways to help make sense of or shape the overwhelming flood of sin.
Discz co-founders especially want to bridge the gap that has arisen between TikTok, the most fertile space for new music, and older streaming platforms like Spotify, which has recognized that it needs to be done better on joining the all-important youth demographic. “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’m trying to spend time with young people who are pushing the company to go after Gen Z and later Gen Alpha.”
In a world where many young listeners find their new favorite songs on TikTok, “there is a decline when it comes to people wanting to save these songs on Spotify,” Pinckney says. The Discz team is trying to combat this dropout, while also betting that their generation is more interested in receiving music recommendations from someone like them, rather than a leader in a massive technology company. “We’re tired of algorithms determining what’s trending, or editorial teams deciding that’s what you need to listen to,” explains Yin, a senior software engineer at Facebook before taking over as Discz’s chief technology officer.
Elevator pitch for Discz – and the way breathless fans explained the app on TikTok – is Spotify meets Tinder. The app recommends you a series of songs based on your previous listening preferences and plays you TikTok-sized excerpts of each. You swipe left or right depending on your emotions around each track; the ones you like are automatically added to a Spotify playlist for you.
It’s fun, but the more potent aspects of Discz encourage users to interact with each other, especially through a TikTok-like feed that lets you see what Other things listeners play, try a 15-second excerpt of it, and save it if you like. The app then presents users with “plugs” – you get one every time you introduce someone to a new song and they save it – instead of liking. “Someone will only save a song if they like it but have not heard it before either,” Pinckney says. “So it does not reward consistency.”
Masn, whose viral hit “Psycho!” provided him with a deal with RCA Records, is one of Discz’s highest profile users. “Everyone has shorter attention these days,” he says. “You do not have to spend an hour or two looking for new music. And this way you will be rewarded for showing people new music they like.”
As TikTok has become more popular, a new generation of potential tasters has emerged on the app, trying to guide their many followers to new music. And members of this group are now starting to draw to Discz, where they are gaining traction depending on how many new songs they introduce to people. “If you’re a curator trying to get a fan base, it’s really hard on Spotify because it’s really oversaturated,” explains Annabelle Kline-Zilles, who sells custom playlists under the That Good Sh * t brand and also manages the young rapper Diz. “There’s not much room to find playlists themselves, and Spotify’s editorial playlists are prioritized on the platform.” What’s more, “you do not get to see what kind of actual numbers and interaction you get on a playlist.”
On the other hand, Kline-Zilles continues, “on Discz you can see who is putting this person on this “Her” best underground hip-hop “playlist has already led to 1,950 saves in lesser-known plays such as Dre Wave $, Jay Hollywood and her own play Diz.” [Discz] is a new way to get the music from someone you work with out there, ”adds Kline-Zilles.
People are fascinated enough by Discz that when the latest version of the app was launched last week, user interest crashed its servers. (“Many of the early technical challenges have been around how the app could handle a load of hundreds of thousands of people on it at one time,” says Yin.) When Yin and others took care of the server problem, the app cracked. top ten in the US App Store’s music section.
Yin points out that she’s building the plane while she’s flying – due to the outburst of interest in August, she and Pinckney were in full swing putting together an improved version as soon as possible. Some features, such as adding comments, are still missing. But more than 15 million songs have been discovered and stored on the app to date. “We’re still a little nervous about putting it out because it’s so early,” Yin says. “But we wanted it in people’s hands.”