Rapchat Allows Anyone To Become A Rapper
Rapchat is a mobile app that is dedicated to helping rap enthusiasts create, collaborate, and share their work with the world. I caught up with the company’s co-founder and CEO, Seth Miller, to learn more about their product and their mission to become the premier music creation platform in the world.
Turning Passion Into Profession
Seth Miller has always harbored a passion for free styling and it’s a hobby he has kept up with throughout his childhood and into his college years. While attending Ohio University, however, Seth began to notice that his interest in the art of hip hop was shared by many of his fellow schoolmates.
“At parties around 2AM there would always be a group of people in the corner free styling.” – Seth Miller, Co-Founder & CEO of Rapchat
Seeing this, Seth thought it would be fun to create an app that integrated rapping with aspects of social media by allowing people to come up with their own free styles and share them with their friends…and so the idea for Rapchat was born.
Seth began working on Rapchat his junior of college. At the time he had next to no experience with entrepreneurship and had no idea how to build a app. But upon talking to one of his professors, Seth was convinced to attend the Startup Weekend in Athens, Ohio, where he was able to garner support for his idea and ultimately win the competition.
8 month after graduation, Seth quit his job as a systems engineer at Progressive Insurance to pursue Rapchat full time with his co-founder, Pat Gibson. The duo have developed a good dynamic when it comes to the split up of responsibilities at Rapchat.
Pat, a rapper by trade, has a good pulse on music as well as a knack for marketing. He is responsible for brainstorming features, connecting with record labels and artists, and getting users on board. On the other hand, Seth has an IT background, and he manages the logistics of day to day business and oversees the development of the Rapchat app. With their complimentary skill-sets, the co-founders make for an formidable team.
From left to right: Seth Miller, Pat Gibson
Instagram + Spotify
Rapchat started as a simple concept – an app that allows people to create, share, and discover raps. It’s core functionality allows users to pick a beat from an existing library, record lyrics over the beat, and send the finished rap to friends or to have it be discoverable by anyone in the Rapchat community. But since it’s inception the app has grown beyond it’s original intent and into a platform that helps countless musicians and creators develop, collaborate, and share raps with people around the world.
The Rapchat app itself looks and feels like the love child of Instagram and Spotify. The app features an Instagram like UI where users can browse through popular tracks as well as raps uploaded by their friends. The app also allows users to look up specific raps and artists and include features like “Beats Charts” and “Rapchat HOT 100”.
Over the past few years, Rapchat has consistently added new features to the app – everything from group raps, a feature that allows you to make raps with friends, to quirky and fun features like the Rap Name Generator. The team is currently gearing up for their biggest release yet, which will feature a whole new studio experience where users can apply auto tune as well as other vocal effects to their lyrics.
Like many early stage digital and social media platforms, Rapchat’s current focus is not on monetization, but rather on building the biggest community possible. The app targets two main markets. The first is on the consumer side – people who want to make free styles for fun as well as serious artists trying to build a career and a following. The second is on the supplier side – producers of instrumental beats over which the users rap. Rapchat is currently working with over 600 producers and is looking to expand in this market by adding more features that allow producers to interact with the customers who might buy their beats.
In 2016, the music industry in the U.S. generated about $17.2 billion and is forecasted to reach $22.6 billion by 2021 – needless to say, there is a lot of value to be captured here.
Most of the users acquired by Rapchat have been through the word of mouth, with occasional doses of social media campaigns and cross promotional efforts. Even with such a sparse advertising strategy, Rapchat has been able to pull in 2 million registered users to date with over 100 million plays on their content – the average user spends around 20 minutes per day on the app.
In 2016, the Rapchat team was accepted to and completed the 500 Startups accelerator program in Silicon Valley before moving back to Columbus, Ohio in the fall where they went on to raise $1.6 million from Oakland and Midwest based venture capitalists. Along with the round, the team brought on a new board member: Alex Hofmann – the former North America President of musical.ly, a music video creation app that was acquired by Bytedance Technology Co. for $1 billion in 2017. Despite their recent fundraising round, Seth states that the biggest problem Rapchat faces at the moment is moving/scaling faster while being able to sustain and finance their growth.
“We’re trying to do something huge, and that requires a lot of capital. But it’s not easy raising money for a rap app.” – Seth Miller, Co-Founder & CEO of Rapchat
There are a handful of competing rap and music creation apps currently out on the market. Apps like AutoRap by Smule adopt a similar idea to Rapchat, but they lack the breath of features and the strong community that Rapchat offers. And while apps like GarageBand and SoundCloud offer a variety of features in the realm of content creation and music sharing/distribution, respectively, they completely neglect the other side of the equation. Rapchat’s biggest competitor at the moment seems to be an app called Battle Me: Rap Maker and Hip Hop Studio based out of the England. Battle Me features many similar functionalities as Rapchat in both the production and community aspects. Furthermore, Battle Me has the unique component of having weekly rap contests that give users the opportunity to compete for cash prizes and gain exposure. Battle Me currently boasts 1.5 million downloads on the app store.
Rapchat does have one advantage against Battle Me: they’re VC-backed. Aside from the money, the Rapchat team has a knowledgeable group of mentors, especially music app veteran Alex Hofmann, to guide them in their venture. However, Seth believes that the company’s competitive advantage ultimately lies in what it considers to be a superior product and its sizable and tight knit community.
“What sets us apart is the community and product. If we continue to build a better product and community, no one can stop that. This is how we fought off 20-30 random rap apps that pop up here and there” – Seth Miller, Co-Founder & CEO of Rapchat
An Ubiquitous Platform
The Rapchat team is constantly updating its app and making the experience more intuitive and enjoyable for both the customers and the producers. As Rapchat’s reputation spreads and its community grows, Seth wants to bring other stakeholders like singers, designers, videographers, and photographers onto the platform to provide a truly holistic music creation experience. The company is also exploring the potential to expand to other countries as well. Seth mentioned that the team is currently eyeballing China and is in contact with multiple companies there.
Ultimately, Seth wants Rapchat to become the biggest digital music ecosystem in the world.