A Look at Yesteryear: Just what is a “Mixtape”?

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If you were born in the early or late 80s, you will be very familiar with the idea of a mixtape. However, with the latter generations, they do not know what it is. Today, we will be taking a much needed look into the culture of a mixtape.


What is a Mixtape?

Back in the day—before the advent of USBs and CDs—there were cassette tapes. These were compact recordings that required magnetic tape to store and playback music. Before the CDs took over, cassette tapes were the primary method of distributing music.

A mixtape is a recording of songs (usually by different artists) that altogether form a unique message or theme. A mixtape is normally given away toward someone that is a potential romantic interest. The songs are often chosen to convey the feelings of the giver. A special touch to this is the fact that songs are usually recorded in a particular order.

The title of songs can often be led into one another in order to provide a complete message for the recipient. This was one of the reasons why it was so popular to give a mixtape to a potential romantic interest.

On the neutral side of things, it was also common to have a personal mixtape. It started with a blank cassette tape which is eventually filled in by songs that the owner recorded unto it. The recordings can be taken from other cassettes or even directly from the radio.


Mixtape Controversy

What made mixtapes rather controversial was the fact that they were made by recording copyrighted songs. Usually, songs would be taken from other tapes or recorded right off of the radio. This raised some concern regarding the unlawful replication and distribution of music.

While these were created for personal use, there was still the issue of unlawful recordings and reproduction of copyrighted material. As you can imagine, the record labels and the artists may have felt that their trademarks were being violated. The issue was the fact that the reproduction of songs on cassette tapes was so widespread that is was practically impossible to track all the violators. Thankfully technology leapt forward and cassette tapes (and mixtapes) were left behind by consumers.


To Close

The whole concept of a mixtape is something that our culture came up with. It was something that was used to express emotions and ideas in a wholly creative and completely personal way. Many of us in the team remember pouring hours into making just the right mixtape that sent the right message to the person that was receiving it. Yes, we made our own mixtapes without really considering the copyright violations. Yikes.

Far more personal than any digital playlist of today can provide, this does not mean to say that digital playlists cannot be personal. However, the extra effort and slight technical difficulty that it takes to build a mixtape is one of the reasons why it is remembered quite fondly. How many mixtapes did you make in your youth?

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