With the onset of the pandemic keeping people at home, many turned toward online entertainment and socializing — two factors that inspired Trustin Yoon to found Discover Together, a start-up web-app that transforms Spotify’s music recommendations from a solo to a duo experience.
By analyzing the features of each person’s 50 most listened songs — such as Danceability, Happiness and Energy — the Discover Together algorithm clusters songs with music tastes the two users have in common and recommends music in that cluster that is new for both users. During quarantine, Yoon stumbled upon the Spotify Application Programming Interface, while teaching himself coding, and was inspired to create a social experience with music.
“My music tastes are very niche, and I thought like, ‘oh, it would be awesome to kind of experience the joy of finding a new song that I really enjoy with other people,’” Yoon, a senior majoring in business administration, said. “April, May, June, like the worst months of lockdown, [we] had to kind of get creative with you know, bonding and socializing with other people so that’s kind of where I got the idea.”
Arjun Reddy, a graduate student studying marketing analytics, was already in contact with Yoon on LinkedIn after he had published a different data science project. After he heard Yoon’s idea, the two of them spent 50 hours over seven days to develop the basic algorithm for Discover Together.
After making a post seeking help to develop the website on Ladder, an online community for recent college graduates to find professional opportunities, Yoon connected with Niyant Narang, a senior majoring in computer engineering at UCLA, and built a team of engineers and designers from Cornell University and the University of Waterloo. Starting in late summer, Yoon, Reddy, Narang and their team worked part-time on Zoom calls and Slack messaging to develop the web-app, which finally launched in February.
“[Quarantine] was one of the reasons that we actually created this together,” Reddy said. “We wanted to be able to connect two individuals that, you know, might not be able to see each other in person but wanted to keep in touch.”
According to Narang, Discover Together stresses the discovery aspect of finding new music, while other third-party Spotify services recommend songs to one user that the other likes, or finds common songs between both users’ playlists.
“This is really unique in the sense that it’s not doing either, it’s kind of a little bit of both, where it’s not only mixing your music tastes, but then finding songs that you probably haven’t listened to that you would still love,” said Narang.
Since the algorithm analyzes each user’s top 50 songs, one challenge Reddy noticed was that less relevant genres in a user’s listening history were getting recommended equally as often as more relevant genres, so the team had to make adjustments to factor in genre relevance to ensure that only the most suitable songs would be recommended. Recently, Discover Together passed the milestone of reaching 1,500 playlists made, and Reddy is eagerly awaiting the day 10,000 playlists have been created.
Narang’s most rewarding moment after launching Discover Together was when he was working in the library with some people and heard them discussing how much they enjoyed the web-app without knowing that he was one of the founders of the start-up.
“Someone mentioned ‘Discover Together’ without me prompting … and then they were like, ‘Oh yeah, like I love this, this is super sick, I’ve done it with my girlfriend and we’ve found so many songs together,’” Narang said. “There’s a lot of times where you kind of just get tired of music because you’re stuck with the same songs. You don’t really currently find anything new. I think it’s just a great way to explore, and I like seeing that other people have felt the same way about it.”
Some users have expressed that they want to use Discover Together with more than one other person in a group, so Yoon, Reddy and Narang are considering adding that feature. At the moment, one of their future goals is to be acquired by a dating app since they realized that discovering music was a great way to break the ice when meeting someone new for the first time, especially online.
Discover Together is currently partnered with a Canadian dating app called Aphrodite, which uses artificial intelligence to match people based on things they have in common on a form they fill out, and are currently in talks with matchSC. Reddy said that music was a great way for two people to connect since sometimes it’s hard to talk to people on dating apps.
“Right now, we want to position ourselves as a feature that dating apps can use for themselves,” Yoon said. “If you go on Tinder, there would be a feature, saying, ‘Oh, do you want to make a playlist?’ or something like that. I know you can see what their favorite artists are and stuff like that, but kind of going a step further does a great job breaking the ice, like ‘hey, did you listen to this song on our playlist?’ That’s the kind of direction we’re taking.”
Ideally, Reddy hopes that if Discover Together is integrated into a dating app, it will allow partners to find music and make meaningful memories with each other.
“You would send a request out for someone you’re talking to on Bumble or whatever, make a playlist with them and [Discover Together] will make the playlist you could potentially listen to together, or talk about the song that you like on the playlist,” Reddy said. “If you go on a date to a picnic or something like that, you’d be able to listen to that close together.”
If a Spotify user wants to try out Discover Together without a partner, the service can also be enjoyed by making a playlist with yourself. When Narang was testing out the service, he made playlists with himself and found at least 20 songs that he now listens to regularly, and encourages people to try it out as well — on their own, with a friend or someone they’ve just started talking to.
“Music is like a universal connector,” Yoon said. “[Discover Together exists] in a great little niche where we can target existing couples so that they can have fun and make a playlist together. The app is kind of intimate, like a one-on-one playlist builder. Also for people just meeting for the first time, it’s a great way to start conversation and talk about music, favorite artists and find new music together.”