By Evan Sharfe
In the 2000 film High Fidelity, DJ and record storeowner Rob Gordon, John Cusack’s top 5 list making character, gives us a brief, albeit; important crash course in the art of mix tape programming. A mere 13 years later, is this art form still relevant?
It depends on who you ask, I guess. Depending on your cultural perspective, the idea of the mix tape, along with the mix tape itself, is thriving. Websites such as Soundcloud and Mixcloud allow DJs and music tastemakers to upload virtual mix tapes for the whole world to hear. You can even make playlists on Spotify and share them. This is fine and dandy, and a great way to promote one’s skills as a programmer of playlists, however; what about one-on-one music sharing? You can share music via Dropbox, but most times people just share entire albums, which loses its personal context in my opinion.
In my formative years, mix tapes (then later mix CDs) were a crucial element to the development of an interpersonal relationship. Whether platonic or romantic, mixes allowed me to take a snapshot of who I was in musical form. It provided talking points for our next encounter, communicated intensions of a relationship, and even laid deal breakers out on the table.
With the Cassette format way passed its prime, we stand beside the ashes of the Compact Disc and look towards a digital horizon lead by iTunes and the age of “ringtone rap.” In this landscape, how can we share music with one another on a personal level? How can we build relationships on the common bond of music? Sites like 8Tracks are helping fill this void by providing “internet radio created by people, not algorithms.” At 8tracks you can create a playlist, name it, and even upload cover art. And for the particularly nostalgic, there is the Mix Tape USB Stick from a cheeky novelty company called Suck UK. The tagline even says “Give it to someone you love.”
So is this art form still relevant? Yes! Viva la Mix Tape!
Here is a Spotify playlist curated by yours truly and coworker, Emily Worstell.