If you’ve ever tried to play music while chatting with friends or family on FaceTime or Zoom, you know that it doesn’t really work. Even if one person plays music that’s loud enough for their online friends to make out, the sound quality is terrible, and it can be difficult to hear everyone talk. You can tweak your Zoom settings to make it easier to play music via screen sharing; still, video chatting software simply wasn’t made for people to listen to music together.
But now, the music-syncing app AmpMe is launching a video-chatting feature that lets a group of up to eight people hang out while listening to music from Spotify, YouTube, SoundCloud, or Deezer. The host of the party gets to act as DJ, uploading a playlist from any of these platforms for everyone to enjoy. If you use YouTube, AmpMe’s interface will also play video along with audio.
“I’ve tried with a few friends many times during this confinement to do Zoom drinks. But it’s really not made for that,” says AmpMe CEO Martin-Luc Archambault. “You can change the background, but you can’t play music. Music is a big part of partying or having fun with your friends.”
Archambault and the team got the idea toward the beginning of the current pandemic, when they began to observe users chatting more and more in the AmpMe app. They realized that people were using AmpMe to sync their phones so they could listen to music together, even though they couldn’t be in the same room.
Now the new feature will help people do just that, with the added benefit of video chat. While the urge for social Zoom calls has certainly lessened since the beginning of quarantine as states start to reopen, house parties and indoor hangs are still off-limits in cities such as New York and San Francisco unless you’re social distancing. And with coronavirus cases rising around the country and the WHO reporting the largest single-day increase in cases over the weekend, many people may be in for an extended period of isolation and remote work. For those of us who’ve gotten in the habit of seeing friends and family who don’t live nearby virtually, AmpMe’s video-chatting feature is a fun way to enliven video calls.
AmpMe got its start in 2015 by providing a way for friends to sync their phones to all play the same music at the same time, turning a group of devices into a makeshift speaker system. A subsequent update in 2018 extended that syncing capability to Bluetooth speakers, and now the app has more than 24 million users.
The app, which is available on iOS and Android, is charging a subscription fee of $5 weekly or $10 monthly to host a video party; anyone can join someone else’s party for free. If you download AmpMe before the end of the day on Thursday, June 25, the app is offering lifetime free hosting for its video parties.