Love in the Digital Age: Mixtape Making 101

Ah, the mixtape. The classic, nostalgic symbol of love and longing. Back in the day, there was no gesture so romantic as presenting your beloved with a cassette tape chock-full of the sappiest love songs you could stomach. Today, in the age of Pandora, iTunes, Spotify, some may claim that the art of mixtape-making is a forgotten one. However, the truth is that romantics today are using the power of the internet to make their statements of love more creative, intricate, and accessible than ever before. So where do we begin?

Step 1: Pick a theme

Who are you making a mixtape for? What’s the occasion? How do you want your person of interest to feel about the music (and, by association, you)? 

These are all questions to consider. In general, it’s a good idea to pick a central, unifying theme that all of your songs will relate to. For example, if you’re giving a mixtape to your spouse for your anniversary, your theme could be “songs from our first date,” or “songs from our wedding”. If your mixtape is going to someone you’re less serious with, like a crush or a new flame, you might want to stick to a more general idea, like “summer chill mix” or “nighttime driving songs”. Think about what kind of message you’re trying to get across, and pick a theme that reflects that.

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Step 2: Choose your songs

Now that you have a theme, what songs are you going to use to communicate that message? Do you want to stick to old favorites, or introduce them to something new?

It can be good to start off a mixtape with a song you know the recipient will love to get them “hooked” on the message you’re sending right away. After that, you can decide how classic or how obscure you want to go. You can pick songs from a variety of genres and styles, or you can create a compilation of similar songs you know they’ll love.

A quick disclaimer: yes, we know there is some less-than-legitimate activity happening out there on the internet with regards to music sharing. For the record, we at Howard do not condone any kind of illegal piracy. Making music is an art that requires immense amounts of time, talent, and energy, and purchasing the music you like is the way to make sure artists are credited for their hard work. Also, buying your music from services like iTunes and Google Play will ensure that you’re getting great-sounding, high-quality mp3s, and you definitely want to put your best foot forward when it comes to the quality of your mixtapes. If all of this doesn’t convince you, just remember that music piracy is extremely illegal and punishable by law. So please, buy your music from legitimate, high-quality sources; it’s good for the artists, and it’s good for you, and it’s pretty cheap.

Step 3: Pick your medium

Do you want your mixtape to be online, or on a physical CD? How personalized should it be? 

A popular and convenient solution is creating your mixtape entirely online. Once you’ve put it together, giving the mix is super simple; all you have to do is send them a link via email or Facebook. Here’s a few of our favorites:

Youtube

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via Gizmodo

You may not think of Youtube as a prime music-streaming site, but the truth is that you can probably find just about any song in the world there. Youtube’s playlist feature is actually pretty powerful, letting you add videos and arrange them in the order you want them to play. Additionally, your listener can choose to shuffle or repeat your playlist as they see fit, and they can select individual songs to play in any order. This article from Gizmodo outlines the ins and outs of Youtube playlist-making.

The only drawback to a Youtube playlist is that, simply put, it’s not very pretty. Youtube doesn’t give you any kind of options to customize the appearance of your mix, meaning that the recipient is going to be looking at a rather unromantic grey screen.

8Tracks

Capture

8tracks gives you more customization power than Youtube or Spotify, with the ability to add cover photos and mix descriptions.

If you’re into pretty pictures and you already have an extensive mp3 collection, 8tracks is a great option. It was built for personal, specialized playlists created by real people, and the site actually encourages you to make your mix look as pretty as possible by uploading a cover photo. 8tracks allows you to upload your mp3s to use, or you can search SoundCloud‘s extensive database for music.

While you have lots of control over how your mix will look and sound, your listener will have very little control over how they play the mix. 8tracks playlists can only be played from start to finish with the tracks in order, and with very few skips. Additionally, the listener won’t see the tracklist until the songs have already played, so unless you tell them what songs are on the playlist, they won’t know what to expect when they press play. (Which, hey, might be what you’re going for!)

Spotify

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70’s party, anyone?

This might be the easiest option of the three: all you have to do is search Spotify’s massive collection for songs you want to include and click and drag them to your playlist. Your listener can play the songs in any order they’d like, and they have the option to repeat or shuffle songs. Spotify makes sharing a breeze, as you can embed your mixtape in a blog post, or send them a link via Facebook or email.

Much like Youtube, this isn’t the prettiest format for a mixtape. Spotify doesn’t allow you to upload a cover photo or write a mix description. And while there is a whole lot of music on Spotify, there are a few notable holes in their catalog (for example, you won’t find any music by Taylor Swift or the Beatles).

While online mixtapes can be super convenient, for some people, nothing is more special than a personalized gift they can hold in their hand. If your sweetheart is one of these people, we are here to help! Giving a physical CD gives you the chance to personalize every aspect of the gift, riac28647a-5e41-451f-a0c8-b0e8403606deght down to how the CD looks. Check out these blank CD-Rs that let you print a picture right on the label.

No matter what songs you choose or how you share them, the most important rule in mixtape-making is to be sincere and thoughtful. Don’t be afraid to spend as much time as it takes to get it right. Your special someone will see all the effort you put into their gift, and they will love knowing that you took the time to put together songs that remind you of what you love about them.

That’s why we made this mixtape for you, our friends and readers! Thanks for listening, watching, sharing, reading, shopping, and sticking with us for all this time. We are so grateful for your support that picked some of our favorite summertime jams and put them together–just for you!

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