Discord Launches Social Audio ‘Stage Channels’
Discord has widened the voice chat options on its platform with a new event-focused social audio feature called Stage Channels. Designed for hosting interviews, concerts, and any other audio-only experience, Stage Channels organize the kind of formal and semi-formal audio events that have become a key component of Clubhouse and most other social audio apps.
Stage Channels are essentially a streamlined version of Discord’s other voice channels. They reduce the interruptions, long pauses, and other issues that can plague more flexible audio chatrooms. Moderators control the Stage Channel more directly, adding, removing, or muting speakers as desired. Audience members can raise their virtual hands if they want to speak, but it’s the moderator’s decision whether to bring them to the stage. Attendees can also leave without the group notification common to Discord’s other channels. The result is a lot like a Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces room, though Discord compares the moderators to stagehands instead.
Stage Channels are already available on all of Discord’s platforms. They operate on community servers, making groups with bigger numbers the main target for the new feature. They will mainly be visible to members of the group, though moderators can ask aks to be featured in Discord’s discovery menu. But, with 140 million monthly users on Discord for up to four hours a day, there are a lot of potential groups and events that might be keen to try out a Stage Channel and limit the complications of a regular voice chatroom.
“As more and more of these bigger audio-centric events pop up, we realized that it can be difficult to manage organized audio events within voice channels,” Discord explained in a blog post about the new feature. “Currently, you’d have to juggle things such as what permissions users have, what roles someone might have that override said permissions, and any channel-specific permissions overriding *those* permissions just to get everything ready to run your voice event… needless to say, it can be a lot!”
Social Audio Spotlight
Discord upgraded and enhanced its audio chat services enormously over the last year, spurred in part by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent spike in use. That focus has accelerated in the wake of Clubhouse’s explosive growth and millions of new users over the last couple of months. Social audio is the hot topic of conversation in voice technology right now for a reason. Though Clubhouse understandably soaks up most of the attention, startups like Quilt and Swell are picking up momentum o their own. Meanwhile, social audio features are popping up or are expected to appear soon on Slack, Twitter, Telegram, and more. LinkedIn admitted this week it too is joining the social audio crowd, with plans to tie social audio to other new features.
Social audio is also why people are taking rumors that Microsoft might purchase Discord for $10 billion seriously. It would give Microsoft a piece of the social audio market and a huge audience of video game fans without having to build a platform from scratch. The most direct competition for Discord’s Stage Channels, however, might be coming soon from Spotify. The streaming platform acquired Betty Labs, the startup behind sports-focused social audio app Locker Room to build an event-based social audio platform. Discord doesn’t seem certain how people will ultimately use Stage Channels, just that they want them.
“Whether you’re in the spotlight or in the audience, Stage channels are here to help bring everyone just a bit more closer [sic] together for audio-centric events of all varieties,” Discord wrote in its blog. “It’s not often we introduce a whole new type of channel into Discord — we’re stoked to see what sorts of crazy ways you utilize Stage channels.”