Several months into the pandemic, PC Music founder AG Cook was idle in rural Montana, conceptualizing the rollout of his first two proper solo albums, 7G and Apple. Live broadcasts had ceased, so he wanted to orchestrate something “really intense and complex online,” as he recalls. He plotted. He made a few calls. Finally, in August 2020, he launched apple guild, a month-long alternate reality game in the Discord chat app. This Byzantine simulation imagined the music industry as an association of medieval European merchants – perhaps subliminally linked to the fact that his father, British architect Peter Cook, was knighted in 2007. he declared.) “Live a whole century in 28 days,” promised Apple Guild.
Discord is a voice, video and instant messaging service that hosts communities called servers, which are subdivided into various themed chat rooms. servers can include anything from an eight-person Dostoyevsky reading group to over 780,000 fief Roblox players. After clicking Cook’s link, curious fans discovered a special server with themed channels like “the-commons” and “the-orchard.” Mischievous robots known as “The Core” spewed out riddles and clues, like trolls guarding an ancient bridge. The community was confused. “We were just saying random things to them,” says one of the participants, Brandon Shave, a 26-year-old artist from the Boston area. “The reward turned out to be AG Cook sharing stems of 7G for free, which was pretty amazing for any PC Music fan.
During these 28 days, Cook and his conspirators sent the members of the Apple Guild on frantic quests. The “Guild People” competed in a Battle of the Bands, where they were assigned puny names – Vampire Fortnite, Oh Yeah Yeah Yeahs – and given three days to record a cover. They traversed the internet to conquer dark forces (more bots) called “Dissonators”, which involved slaying a dragon in Minecraft and making 100 people sing Cook’s song”safety rope” in C-Major at 118bmp. “I was so on edge – it was the most exciting game I’ve ever been in for a game in my life,” said 20-year-old fan Angelica Rottingdam. The festivities culminated in a “Golden Age”, which included a listening party for Apple and virtual music festival in which Battle of the Bands winners performed alongside artists like Charli XCX and Clairo. “So much work went into each day, developing story arcs and total shifts,” Cook recalled. “It was like running a reality TV show.”
Such a labyrinthine affair could only have happened on Discord. The platform allows you to communicate privately with friends, while encouraging large public servers to form around mutual interests like on Reddit. (In fact, many Discord communities organize themselves through subreddits.) But Discord servers are more of a closed space—conversations aren’t publicly viewable via Google—so the sense of camaraderie and mutual obligation can sometimes be stronger. “Reddit is like a comments section, and that can mean people don’t have a meaningful discussion, they just leave a comment and walk away, but Discord is a bit more personal and in-depth,” says Hanne, a 26 years. -old in Scotland who helps oversee the Grimes fan community of over 15,000 members, Grimescord. Lili Trifilio of indie-pop band Beach Bunny puts a finer point on this: “Discord is a safe space, it’s like there’s a group of people defending themselves against the rest of the internet.”
That may be true for some, but in a broader sense, Discord is like any other space on the internet – nearly impossible to regulate, capable of launching a career or advancing the agendas of hate groups. It’s a place where the lines between community support and groupthink, fandom and work, blur. The platform launched in 2015 as an online watering hole for gamers, and its unique ability to foster niche communities has grown significantly since then. it is a hub for crypto enthusiastsanime fans, youtube personality fans, and much more. Other communities are downright dangerous: After white nationalists used Discord to organize the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, it developed a reputation as “Alt-Right’s Favorite Chat App.” More recently, a suspect in a shooting in Buffalo used Discord to document his plans for a racist attack that left 10 people dead.