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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I Miss Mixtapes

Granted, I made more mixCDs than tapes (you still call them "mixtapes"), but does anyone miss the hardware medium for sharing music?

How else to do you profess your love for someone in a shy and passive, but slightly obsessive manner? (A la 'High Fidelity'- also a favorite movie of mine).

For those of you too young to have ever made or received a mixtape, or those that just don't get the point of them, check out the book "Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time" by Rob Sheffield.

Better than trying to come up with my own description:
Sheffield was a "shy, skinny, Irish Catholic geek from Boston" when he first met Renee. Southern born and bred, "she was warm and loud and impulsive." They had nothing in common except a love of music. Since he made music tapes for all occasions, he and Renee listened together, shared tapes, and though never formally planning to, married. On May 11, 1997, everything changed. He was in the kitchen making lunch. Suddenly, she collapsed, dying instantly of a pulmonary embolism. Devastated, he quickly realized that he couldn't listen to certain songs again, and that life as he knew it would never be the same. Fun and funny, moving and unbearably sad, Sheffield's account at its quirkiest, and because of his penchant for lists, is reminiscent of Nick Hornby's novel High Fidelity (1995). Anyone who loves music and appreciates the unspoken ways that music can bring people together will respond warmly to this gentle, bittersweet reflection on love won and love irrevocably lost. (via Amazon)
It really is an incredible story of a man dealing with pain and loss. Even if you don't care about music, but especially if you do, you'll enjoy the book.

Back to my original point.

More than just sharing music (you can share digital files easily these days), mixtapes are tactile representations, snapshots, of a moment in time in your life. Listening to a well-constructed mixtape can walk you through all the pain, anger, joy, and excitement the creator was feeling when they made it.

I haven't made a "true" mixtape in years, but I make a playlist at the end of each year with songs that I've been particularly keen on over the past year. (In case you're interested, here are the past few from 2010, 2011, and 2012).

Again, they don't really represent anything in particular, but I follow a couple of my own rules for mixtape making, including: keeping it to 80 minutes (max length for a CD) and ensuring it has a good "flow". I like starting in the middle, crescendoing over the first third, tapering back, rising a bit again, then coming back down for the finale. Often, if I'm making a tracklist for a CD, I'll leave a song or two unlisted as "Hidden" or "Bonus" tracks.

Interestingly enough, I've recently come across two companies that tap into this nostalgia with two different solutions....

Sharetapes import playlists from a variety of sources (YouTube, Spotify, 8tracks), then link it to a unique "tape" that you can access by scanning the QR code, using NFC, or visiting their website.

Pretty interesting concept and you're able to give a tangible object, but it's really just sending a link to an online playlist. You're not physically handing over any music, nor can the recipient keep the music after.

Milktape solves that problem by simply being a USB drive in the shape of a cassette tape. It's also only a 128MB drive, restricting the number of songs you can place on it and, somewhat, replicating the limited nature of tapes/CDs.

Again, interesting concept and I believe gets closer to the original than Sharetapes...
But... 1) you're paying $15 for a 128MB thumb drive (you can get an 8GB drive for that money); and 2) to ensure the songs are played in the correct order you either have to rename them all with the track number in the filename or have the recipient order the songs themselves in their audio player according to the tracklist on the cover (no hidden/bonus tracks).

Anyway, still no replacement for the original (or its CD equivalent), so I'll continue to make them the old fashioned way; but if you've come across something, I'm always interested to hear about new products!

What are your thoughts on mixtapes? Have you ever given or received one?
Should they go the way of the dinosaur or should we perpetuate middle school behavior as encouraged by pop music?

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