The Art of the Mixtape: A Time Honoured Tradition (or not)

By Sarah

Photo by Sarah
Photo by Sarah
1. a compilation of favourite pieces of music, typically by many different artists, recorded on to tape or another medium by an individual.


Mixtape is my middle name. Not really, but almost. When the theme of tradition was thrust upon the month of December here at pop culture puke, the first thought to wash over my brain regarding things that I do in a way that could be described as a ‘traditionally’, was mixtape making.

Mixtapes are so good, you guys! You like someone? Make ‘em a mixtape! It’s Christmas/Hannukah/your birthday? Cool, make a mixtape! In almost any situation, a mixtape can be used as a one size fits all remedy.

Mixtapes are as far I know, not really that old, and came about along with the invention of cassette tapes (although I like to think/hope that people in days of yore recorded musical compilations for their Victorian lovers, etc.,). After the initial wave of mixtapes on cassette, they went from strength to strength with the advent of CDs, and although a little less old school, iTunes and 8tracks.

I probably compile about 3 mixes a week just for myself, plus ones I make for buddies/mixes people ask me to make for them on top of that. Speaking as a regular person with actual stuff to do on a daily basis, I usually lack the superhuman motivation required to keep a decent journal, but mixes are such a good way to remember how you felt and what you liked at different stages in your life. Songs can trigger a smile, maybe some embarrassment, and sometimes make you cry too.  I’d never be able to write diary entries that hard hitting, I know.

People traditionally use the format of mixtape to express things that they couldn’t otherwise say, to record a certain time in their life, or just because they want to keep a record of some cool songs that they’re really into. You can, and should embrace the mixtape as a way to do all of those things, and big bonus; it’s not even embarrassing like a diary, because you were always cool enough to make a mixtape instead of writing sonnets about unrequited love, or whatever.

Some quick tips on making mixtapes:

  • Put songs on that you like, not ones that you listened to once because someone else deemed them cool. You gotta listen to the mix, and if not you, someone else who thinks that you put those songs on there because you liked them. Just do you!
  • Sometimes with mixes, short and sweet is better. Around 11 tracks is probably the optimum number of songs, but sometimes you might only want 5, and other times you might want to include 30.
  • Make some real life tangible mixes. They’re more fun for purposes of reminiscing than a playlist on your iTunes.
  • Album art! Just a fun one, which will also make your mixes better than everyone else’s. Do some collaging, draw a picture, whatever. Pretend that you are the graphic designer that you always wanted to be and get creative with it.
  • My last tip is, if you make a mix for someone, just give it to them. Otherwise your bedroom will start to look like a record store. People like getting mixtapes. So cute! So old school!  Who’s their favourite person? Oh that’s right – you are!

Keep the tradition of mixtapes alive! (But seriously, I can’t do it alone.)

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