Listen to any song or podcast together with your friends or colleagues on a Discord voice call.
While being in a group call on Discord, many times we want to listen to music or to a podcast together, as if we all were in the same room.
So we have built a Discord bot that let's you play (almost) any song or podcast on a Discord voice channel.
There are already other music bots for Discord, but those don't fulfill our needs. First of all, those bots are shared between thousands of Discord servers, so audio quality is unreliable when lots of users play audio simultaneously and overload their servers. Next, those bots limit audio quality (bitrate) and disable features like audio effects/filters to save on CPU costs. Last but not least, well, the best ones are gone.
Hence, the solution was to build and deploy our own bot, so that we could have the best audio quality without any lag or choppiness, don't compromise on features, and don't depend on third-parties.
What it does
- Plays songs, playlists, or podcasts on a Discord voice channel, so that users can listen to it together
- Supports almost any audio format, from almost any source, thanks to
- Provides great user experience, as the UI is build with Slash Commands, a modern, discoverable and accessible way to interact with Discord bots
- Has all the functionality of a fully-featured music player, including:
- Commands to control audio playback:
- Commands to manage the playlist or queue:
- Commands to add sound effects/filters, such as,
- Commands to control audio playback:
How we built it
- The application is built with Node.js
discord.jslibrary is used to interface both with the Discord REST API and the Discord Gateway (through WebSockets)
@discordjs/opuspackages are used to send an audio stream to a Discord voice channel
- Under the hood,
youtube-dlis used to download an audio stream from almost any website or source, and then
ffmpegis used to transcode that audio stream (decode from one format and encode to another format) before sending it through a Discord voice connection
- The infrastructure is an Internet-facing AWS VPC with EC2 instances, managed with Terraform
Challenges we ran into
Streaming audio to a Discord voice channel is computationally expensive, because we have to:
- Download an audio stream from the source, which could be in any codec and bitrate, since we want to support as many different sources as possible.
- On the fly, transcode that audio stream to the only codec that Discord supports (Opus) and to the bitrate set by the current Discord voice channel (64/96/128/256/384kbps). This is done with ffmpeg and causes high CPU load. If audio effects/filters such as volume control or bassboost are applied, the task consumes even more CPU.
- Encrypt and send the resulting audio stream to Discord, in real time.
If there's any performance problem, users immediately notice it because the audio becomes laggy and choppy, which is unacceptable. One of the reasons we wanted our own music bot was to ensure we had reliable and high quality audio.
So we had to find a cost-effective infrastructure for this latency-sensitive task. By using the Graviton2 instances, even a small one like the T4g.micro, the application can transcode multiple audio streams simultaneously without any performance degradation. This wasn't the case with similarly priced x86-based instances, which would reach high CPU utilization with just a few simultaneous audio streams and user experience would suffer as a result. Thus, the ARM-based Graviton2 instances let us deploy a music bot for a very reasonable price while enjoying high quality audio without lag or choppiness.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We built our first Discord bot to solve a problem we had ourselves.
What we learned
- How to develop a Discord bot, with the help of the
- How to configure and provision all the AWS infrastructure needed for our application (EC2, VPC, IAM, etc.) by using Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tooling (Terraform)
- How to build a Continuous Delivery pipeline for EC2 instances
- How to set up a CloudWatch agent to publish the application's logs from an EC2 instance to CloudWatch, so that we could set up alerts and use its log querying tools
What's next for Apollonia Bot
We built this bot to solve a problem we had ourselves, but we believe that other Discord server owners and moderators can also benefit from the reliability and control provided by a self-hosted music bot. Moreover, the recent death of the Groovy and Rythm bots for their violation of YouTube's Terms of Service has left a void for their millions of users. Meanwhile, our music bot, which isn't monetized and can be self-hosted, doesn't violate anyone's Terms of Service and won't be shut down.
Currently, anyone can easily deploy this project on their own AWS account, because we provide a Terraform config to set up all the required infrastructure. But we want to thoroughly document this process and provide step-by-step instructions, so that deploying our music bot on EC2 is as easy as possible.
Then, we want to go one step further and also provide an easier setup of the required AWS infrastructure through the AWS Marketplace, so that even non-technical people can deploy this project on EC2, without having to understand how to install and use IaC tools or how to manage environment variables and secrets.
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