In an email sent to newsletter subscribers this morning, Darren Hemmings of label services company Motive Unknown flagged a future opportunity for artists who are challenged by the attention-marketing era.

Hemmings noted The Atlantic‘s article on Discord, which in the last year has moved from a real-time chat platform primarily used by gamers, to a third-party tool used by and monetised by YouTubers and influencers. Think Slack and What’s App, but with more Philip DeFranco, niche channel topics, and channels which are for voice-only.

“In some senses it is an update on the forums of old, and is doubtless just as chaotic, but it is an invite-only affair and therefore also a response of sorts to the very public nature of most social networks,” said Hemmings.

discord screen shot
Discord

“At a point where I still feel artists and creators should have owned channels that are not subject to algorithms in the manner of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al, the likes of Discord perhaps show a future opportunity,” he added. “Yes, it is doubtless chaotic – but it is still a channel in which fans could be engaged, empowered and activated.

“With similar(ish) platform Telegram also gaining 3m users thanks to Facebook’s outage yesterday, one wonders if this isn’t further evidence of that slow shift to more private spaces for communities to exist. Personally, I hope it is.”

According to The Atlantic‘s writer Taylor Lorenz, what was previously a chat system for individual games and gamers, is now a privacy-centric social-networking experience – much like what Facebook users actually want.

“Over the past few months, seemingly all the pet- and animal-themed Instagram accounts I follow have begun interspersing their videos with pleas,” wrote Taylor Lorenz. “’Join our bird-themed Discord community!’ one posted. Another urged me to connect with a group of like-minded reptile lovers on Discord. A commenter touted a dog-lover Discord server.”

Could artists use Discord to incentivise fan engagement?

Lorenz said Discord’s customisable interface and user experience can be used to announce merch sales, new releases, new videos, or just for posting a message.

“Plenty of influencers have already begun charging an entrance fee to their servers, paid through services such as Patreon, or making users pay for special access and privileges on their servers,” Lorenz wrote.

Discord currently does not take a cut of this revenue. So, given the fact over 250 million people use the platform (not to mention the messy public space of Twitter, the troll-controlled comments sections on YouTube, and the algorithm-encumbrance of Facebook), now might be the time to try Discord.

discord office logo on wood
Discord head office in San Francisco

YouTuber Roberto Blake told The Atlantic:

“Having an independent third-party tool where you can have open dialogue and facilitate a conversation among your community is fantastic. Since it’s independent from all your other platforms, you’re not receiving any algorithmic penalties that [negatively] impact your content in any way.”

Discord could become a service artists could use to circumvent the ways in which they are beholden to algorithms, both on social media and streaming services. Or maybe it’s just a sign of a service/feature to come.

“The reason so many people are adopting Discord is because there’s nothing else out there like it,” YouTuber Carson King added in The Atlantic‘s story. “Discord has just done such a phenomenal job of setting itself up in a way that benefits creators and everyone who enjoys those creators’ content, whether or not they’re into gaming.”