September 15, 2009
Are Mixtapes Dead?
As I stood watching Metallica rock Nashville last night (thanks Jay!), I began to reflect on when I first started listening to the band. I had first heard their music on a mixtape a friend made for me.
Back in the 80’s and early 90’s my friends and I would always make mixtapes for one another. We’d make them for girlfriends or would-be/wanna-be girlfriends, other friends, bars, event specific ones like camping or a holiday. We would also record vinyl to cassette, so we could still carry around the music in our Walkmans.
Back then making mixes meant something. It would take from a couple to several hours to fill all 60 or 90 minutes on a tape. Sure you could dupe a mix for multiple friends, but you would still have to hand write the liner notes and draw a cool cover.
The challenge with cassette mixes was always trying to fit songs right to the end of each side. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet saved me so many times with their perfect ending, short songs.
In the mid 90’s CDs sprung up and began to take over. A standard CD could hold 74 minutes of music, about 18 songs. The ability to make mixes still existed, the need for liner notes and cover art did too. However, you could easily print the insert rather than hand draw it. It took much less time and less effort. Plus, you could easily drop songs in to Nero (or whatever software you used) to determine if they would fit the disc.
Soon after MP3s appeared and file sizes were greatly reduced it was easier to include more great songs for your lucky mix CD recipient. The trouble was that now the number of songs was up to about 138!
It takes a lot of time to carefully craft a mixtape (or CD) for that special person. You can’t just blindly drop music in, you need to pace the mix perfectly too. A fast song, followed by a medium one, then a slow one, followed by a medium and fast one again. Or something to that effect.
Choosing 173 songs was simply too much work. This is where I think it ended. This is where the mixtape died.
There are new ways to make mixes using online tools, but is it the same thing? I made you a mix of Canadian music back on Canada Day, it seemed to be well received. But somehow the lack of something tangible seems to be leaving a void for me. Am I just a grumpy old fool recollecting on days past?
I’d be interested on your take on mixtapes and CDs versus online mixes. Are they just as relevant? What do you think? What are you using for mixes now? Or have you given up on the art form?