More than ever, artists are using apps on their phone to make music that used to only be possible through extremely expensive software and recording setups. With more users looking for that solution than ever before, Columbus startup Rapchat has quietly carved out a massive share of the industry for would-be rappers. The company has now helped millions of artists record, learn, connect and share.
“Rapchat is a platform for aspiring artists to make music and connect with other artists,” said founder and CEO Seth Miller. “Our main product is a mobile app that has helped more than 10 million artists make music on their phone and find a community and collaborators. It’s a recording studio in your pocket, with a social media platform as well. We’re helping artists who have dreams of making music their careers.”
When Rapchat first launched in 2015, it was one of the first to offer an app-based recording platform. Now, there are plenty of other imitators, but Miller and the Rapchat team see their product as more inclusive and more useful than others. And having launched years before some of their competition, they know they’re more in-tune with what their customers need.
“I think that gave us a leg up in terms of learning and understanding shipping cycles — and we’ve made more than 2,000 updates to the product over the years,” Miller said. “But our community is really what sets us apart. We have people active on our platform who don’t even make music in the app — maybe they’ve leveled up or use a more complicated and advanced platform — but who still use Rapchat as their social hub. I think that’s really cool, and highlights that we’re an end-to-end platform. We’re not strict about making people do everything through Rapchat, and we’ve built a really vibrant and authentic community.”
In the five years since TechOhio last visited with Rapchat, the company has made huge strides forward. They originally planned a greater focus on the social aspect of the app more than the production capabilities, raising money and “kicking down the road” the prospects of becoming financially stable. Now, they’ve evolved toward a subscription model that maintains funding while also allowing them to focus on what their subscribers want.
“Now, we have a much clearer picture of who we’re building for and why,” Miller said. “We’ve narrowed our focus on really helping the aspiring artist, which aligns with our business model of subscriptions and making money by purchasing subscriptions that unlock more features. All of that has focused us on building up artists around the world, whereas before we almost wanted to be the Instagram of music and add advertising. We have true stability now and we’re not just worried about the next round of funding.”
Rapchat is growing almost every day. In April, the app made a major update that added industry standard Autotune so that artists can sound like the famous musicians they hear. Miller said they’re planning a variety of other updates and are focused on “continuously making the studio better for the artists” as they find that more users are making longer and more professional sounding music on the app. In the future, they plan to add even more tools, bolster their community features and add initiatives like challenges and other ways to highlight users and create opportunities.
“We know that people are making music, but how can they get that music into more people’s hands? How can they make money from that music?” Miller said. “We want to help them do that and provide the technology and the pipeline for them to do that. Thematically, we’re evolving from just a mobile app to a full-scale platform. We want to be the end-to-end platform for 100 million artists, and I think that’s super realistic.”
Now fully remote in a post-pandemic world, Ohio University graduate and central Ohio native Miller said he feels vindicated for knowing all along that he could build Rapchat from central Ohio rather than the coasts. And with many of his goals met or on their way, he’s proud to have built his company in Columbus.
“I love Columbus, and I’ve been able to meet some really great founders here,” he said. “I always thought, even years ago when geography mattered a lot more, that I could do this in Columbus and not on the coasts. I’m a proponent of the idea that you can build a business from anywhere, and Columbus offers a lot of really cool opportunities for people who want to do that.”