Discord’s Rythm music bot returns with a mission to overhaul shared listening

Three years ago, YouTube turned its attention to Discord music bots that were using the video service to stream music into Discord voice channels. Groovy was one of the first to be forced offline, followed by the most popular Discord music bot, Rythm. YouTube soon launched its own official Discord integration, but the closure of Rythm and Groovy left a giant hole for a shared music listening experience. Now, Rythm is back to try and fill that gap again.

The relaunch of Rythm sees it return to Discord as an activity app, allowing friends to listen to music together once again. “Unlike the previous bot iteration, this one actually has a full UI,” explains Rythm creator Yoav Zimet in an interview with The Verge. “You have the same experience as you had before, so you can create a collaborative queue and listen along with your friends, but now there’s an actual full UI where you can add songs, control the music, and view the album art.” There’s even a music visualizer, which reminds me of the golden era of Winamp and MP3 sharing services.

Rythm was originally created by Zimet when he was just 14 years old as a way to easily share music during Discord calls. It originally worked by taking YouTube videos and just streaming the audio parts straight into Discord calls, avoiding YouTube’s ads and eventually angering Google. It soon grew in popularity: by the time Google forced it offline in 2021, it had been installed on more than 20 million Discord servers and used by more than 560 million Discord users.

The Rythm sessions let users add songs that everyone can hear in a Discord call.
Image: Rythm

Zimet is hoping to reignite the community around Rythm and turn it into the social network of shared music experiences. Together with co-founder Oliy Barrett, the pair have raised capital from firms like Corazon Capital, Mucker Capital, and Crush Ventures, alongside music management firms Laffitte Management Group and Black Squirrel Partners as well as co-founder of Q Prime Peter Mensch.

Rythm will launch today with both paid and free options. A $4.99 premium tier will allow subscribers to create a playlist of songs that up to 20 people can join and listen to. Revenue from premium subscriptions is then shared with labels and publishers. Free users will be able to join these listening sessions or even listen to curated radio stations if there’s not a premium user in the Discord voice call.

Rythm includes access to more than 50 million songs, but there will still be some missing, as the team is still working to ensure all of the top artists are available. “We have a very vast selection of music that we’ve secured so far, and some deals that we’re still negotiating,” admits Zimet. “Right now there’s some of the top artists and around 50 million songs.”

Discord users will be pleased to hear that free users of Rythm won’t hear any ads for now. “It’s something we might introduce, but we obviously want to do it in a very conscious way,” says Zimet. “I think there’s a very unique way Rythm is used in groups and hanging out chatting, and if you’re having a conversation imagine if there was now an ad, we wouldn’t be able to talk.”

Rythm’s mobile app launches later this year.
Image: Rythm

While you can use Rythm in the Discord mobile app, work has already begun on dedicated iOS and Android apps and even ones for desktop PCs. This seems to be a key part of the idea of turning Rythm into more than just a Discord bot for shared listening experiences. “Rythm really proved there was this new way that people are listening to music,” says Zimet. “I wanted to see if I could create an experience that brings that to everyone and not just people on Discord.”

SoundCloud, Turntable.fm, and many others have tried to position themselves as unique music services, and now Rythm is trying to find its own niche and see if there’s a broader appetite for shared listening experiences. The vision is that when a new Drake album drops, there will be groups of Rythm users all listening to the new album together.

“The idea isn’t really to compete with Spotify or Apple Music. I think those services do a great job for people who just want to listen to songs on their own,” says Zimet. “I think Rythm creates a new segment of listening, for people that want to listen in a more social way.”

Rythm launches today as a Discord app, and the mobile app will be available later this year. You can sign up for the mobile waitlist here.

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