Editor’s note: This article is underwritten by Plexpod — a progressive coworking platform offering next generation workspace for entrepreneurs, startups, and growth-stage companies of all sizes — but was independently produced by Startland News.
Reviving the nostalgia of the early 2000s music industry, Mark Serrano designed an app where users can file share “mixtapes” straight from their phones, he said.
“I really want to open that world of file sharing up again,” Serrano said of his newly launched app, Tape Eater, which underscores the founder’s special affinity for independent artists. “It expands the possibilities of music distribution, because people won’t have to rely on labels or getting their samples cleared or going through all these legal steps to be heard.”
Tape Eater is a music streaming platform with a utility purpose, Serrano explained. When users click into the application, it is completely blank — allowing the user to download and uncompress files of their favorite mixtapes.
“It’s old school tech,” Serrano acknowledged. “I’m stepping away from the algorithms. There’s no data; there’s no tracking; there’s no analytics. It’s a very simple tool. If you want to be a collector of mixtapes, this will be the perfect tool for you.”
Serrano is a longtime lover of hip hop mixtapes — first creating Mixtape Monkey in 2011 when he was in high school. Mixtape Monkey, a website where Serrano catalogs and shares mixtapes, was created to be a centralized platform for music fans to find new artists, as well as listen to their favorites.
Click here to read more about what goes on behind-the-screen of Mixtape Monkey.
Sitting on the idea of creating an application for the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic and losing a partnership with music streaming platform TIDAL ultimately pushed Serrano to take the leap of faith, he said.
“The account managers who were handling my account at TIDAL were basically furloughed,” Serrano said. “That was a little soul crushing because I spent all this time building this connection to be a part of this bigger music industry empire, and it was gone. So I decided to start designing the app.”
But knowing that his strengths lay in web design code — not application code — Serrano collaborated with Kansas City’s Code Koalas for the development of Tape Eater.
Serrano designed the application’s icon as a recreation of the Sony TPS-L2 Walkman — the first mobile cassette player.
“It’s a very important piece of tech that changed how people listened to music,” he noted. “I wanted to give a little nod to the past with that.”
Sticking to his beat
As a way to fund Tape Eater, Serrano applied for Digital Sandbox — a popular Kansas City program that supports early stage commercialization processes — and was ultimately denied, he recalled.
“I have the analytics; I have the revenue model. Everything’s legit,” Serrano stated. “So I got a few friends and told them to believe in me. We piled money together to build the app. I’m taking a huge risk.”
Tape Eater officially launched Dec. 19, also coinciding with Serrano’s 28th birthday. Throughout the ups and downs, Serrano stays motivated and says he is already thinking about his next venture.
“I’m about to hit my 10 years since the first build of Mixtape Monkey in April,” he shared. “I’m in this weird place where I am already trying to figure out the next thing for the music industry.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic caused his partnership with TIDAL to cease, Serrano is hopeful that with his continued perseverance and hard work, 2021 will bring about more opportunities.
“I can reach out to [TIDAL] or I can reach out to Spotify and build that respectful relationship where an artist has free content and the artist has paid content — and there’s a happy marriage between us,” Serrano said, noting that mixtapes are typically released for free.
Along with building partnerships within the music industry, Serrano said he will continue his work with Mixtape Monkey.
“I think my website’s important for cataloging and archiving these artists’ work,” he said. “You never know when some simple high school kids silly mixtape was something that changed the music industry forever.”
Tape Eater is now available on the App store.