As the music industry evolves, new streaming services pop up every day. Spotify remains the current leader of the pack, but competitors including the newly relaunched Tidal, Beats Music, Pandora, iTunes Radio, Rdio, Last.FM, and more are all following close behind.
But in reality, none of these streaming services cater to hip-hop releases that are not major albums or EPs. There are countless mixtapes, b-sides, and more missing from the top streaming services, and while there are LiveMixtapes, DatPiff, and other established sites dedicated to hip-hop, there’s a new competitor in town: MyMixtapez. Over the last few months, MyMixtapez has taken on some major releases from Meek Mill, Rich Homie Quan, Lil Durk, and even the release of Lil Wayne’s Sorry for the Wait 2, which had most rap fans downloading the mobile app immediately. Not only is the app free to download, but it offers users the ability to stream and download any available mixtape directly to their phone, too.
MyMixtapez has been getting attention lately, but it isn’t exactly new. The site was created back in October 2011 by parent company Vuziq, a mobile software developer for smartphones that launched back in 2010. One of the app’s co-founders, Danny Duenas, now works on the marketing side, and along with his brothers, Juan and Ricky, he co-manages apps including MyMixtapez, digibeats, Sertanejo, and Pixl.
The app originally launched on Android in 2011 and within the first day, 1,000 people had downloaded it. This continued until their servers crashed, and in 2012, an iOS version was launched. “We like to say that we’re a tech company that loves hip-hop,” Duenas told Complex. “Before that, I used to run cell phone stores. I was firsthand when the smartphone started launching. I was seeing things develop. I thought that it would be crazy if we could create an app. We started off with Video Ringtone Maker; that was our first app that we ever developed.” After that, things took off.
Duenas, originally from Homestead, Fla., has grown up loving hip-hop. When smartphones came around in 2009, Duenas, still in college, realized he couldn’t get Wayne’s No Ceilings mixtape on his phone. “At that moment when I’m in my car, I’m in class, at the airport, wherever I might be, if someone drops a mixtape I can’t go to my laptop or my desktop to download it,” he says. “That’s how the idea came about.”
Now, at 27 years old, Duenas is adapting MyMixtapez to new social media trends. First on Twitter, then Instagram, and these days, the site has been doing rollouts—special announcements and previews—through Snapchat. On each social media platform, the team not only engages with fans on upcoming projects, but constantly promotes the artists, and even decides to mix in timely talk about sports and other trending topics. For now, the MyMixtapez mobile app is free to download and stream, but the premium service—$2.99/month—features higher quality music with no ads.
Though it sees Spotify and Pandora as their main competition right now, MyMixtapez is able to set itself apart by being the preferred choice of the artists for rollouts because of its unique "lock feature," where in order to "unlock" or "release" the music, users have to share the links on social media. “When we lock it, it makes the user or the fan share it on their Instagram or Twitter or whichever way the artist chooses to roll it out,” Duanes says. “When they want them to share it, which is the route Rich Homie Quan went, everyone shares it on their Instagram or Twitter. The artists are not just giving the music out for free. They’re gaining exposure on social media, and gaining followers, and getting traffic to their site.”
Along with the premium, ad-free version of the app, the company also generates revenue from specific deals worked out with artists for project rollouts. As previously pointed out, it not only works with major artists through these deals, but it also sees increased growth due to the versatile options it can offer artists. "We have gradual growth from our marketing on social media. We’re finding different ways to market it. When we do have an exclusive, it does give us a big boost. We get our name out there," Duanes says.
These options are just part of the versatility that MyMixtapez is able to offer to artists. Fans are happy because they're able to get the mixtapes or songs in a convenient way, and artists are incentivized with social media exposure. That exposure not only takes place directly through the MyMixtapez accounts, which are over 50,000 followers on Twitter and over 80,000 on Instagram, but if the project is locked, then every person who downloads will also share it on their accounts. "Yeah, depending on which route they want to go or how they want to do it," Duanes says. "Every deal or artist has a different way of doing things. Some artists don’t want their project locked, they want to give it out for free, and people can choose to Instagram or tweet it. Other artists want the push notification, another feature we have, which notifies users about a project or song being dropped and they can download it. A lot of artists like that."
The company has a few botched rollouts, mostly on the artist’s side, but Duenas says he and his brothers have never gotten worked up about them. “People say stuff and we respond with a meme or with jokes. We notice that they actually like it, and it will go from anger to laughter.” Even with the hiccups, it seems to be working, as MyMixtapez currently has around 5.8 million users and over 10 million downloads, and Duenas says that an expanded version of the app will be done within the next year.
“Mobile apps are the future, and anything that rolls out of that will be the future regarding our company,” Duenas says. “We think sites are something of the past. In five years, people probably won’t be using laptops or desktops anymore. I see us being a powerhouse in the music industry five years from now."
Zach Fydenlund is a writer living in New York. Follow him @ThaRealPchopz.