Although great to see written into the plots of 13 Reasons Why, Atomic Blonde and Better
Call Saul, the days of the cassette tape are long gone.
When I was a kid growing up, the mixtape truly changed my life. First off, the curation of songs really motivated me. How one song would NEED to flow perfectly into another. Then you would have to get the timing precisely right before the tape ran out and flipped to the other side.
Best of all, to no longer be limited to one artist anymore opened up a musical world where anything was possible. You want to put Run DMC and Guns N’ Roses on the same tape? You go for it!
Another reason why I liked mixtapes was the ability to create different themes. For instance, all songs that have a person’s name in the title (Lay Down Sally, Lola, Gloria) or songs with places in the title (Hotel California, Vienna, Sweet Home Alabama). Or only live performances allowed.
And where are all the dreamers out there? Who hasn’t made a mixtape for that special someone in your life that you were pining over? Every lyric had meaning and every note was a hope to connect with and win over that person. Not sure if mixtapes ever actually worked for me (thanks a lot More Than Words by Extreme), but I liked pouring that energy into music.
Eventually cassettes transformed into CDs and how did I love curating mixes for all different occasions from backyard BBQs to New Year’s Eve apartment parties to MS Walk fundraisers. I even remember while working at TV Guide, we created a mixtape-themed CD for clients where every song tied into an ROI message.
Today, Spotify and Amazon Music do a great job at curating songs with a click of a button. It certainly is more time efficient, but hopefully the younger generation can appreciate the golden days where you had to go artist by artist, song by song and painstakingly put in the work to make a great mix.
And for those who want to put in the work, here are my Golden Rules for making a great mixtape!
#1. Never put an artist twice on the same mixtape
#2. Label your songs (digitally or on the case). If someone likes the mix, make it easy for them to know what song it is
#3. Stick to a theme. Gym mix. Sleep mix. BBQ mix. Kids mix. Helps stay in a lane
#4. Put on songs that people will recognize, but also slip in some personal faves so they can discover new music
#5. Try to avoid songs over 7 minutes long. While I love Free Bird and Paradise by the Dashboard Light, they tend to drag at a party