Throughout history, the mix tape has taken on an endless amount of meaning. It is a token of affection, means of self-entertainment, an auditory letter of confessions, a symbol of exquisite taste or ability and is of utmost didactic importance.
As efficiency increases in our McDonaldized world, the process of compiling tracks on a cassette tape has been reduced to mere clicks on a computer only for it to spit out a digitized version, the mix CD. Well, technology got that much “cooler” when it birthed the Internet – may I present to you, muxtape.com.
As bitter as I sound about the evolution of technology taking away from the start-to-finish pleasure of making a mix tape, Muxtape is actually pretty radical. My first experience with the website lasted for hours.
Created by Portland native Justin Ouellette (chromogenic.net), the “project” allows registered users to make MP3 mixes for free that non-users can listen to as well. There is the option to purchase the individual songs from an external link to amazon.com. Attached to the website is a blog containing user tips, such as how to stream from an iPhone or add Muxtape as an application to your Dock on a Mac (don’t worry, the website is more than PC-friendly too).
A good mix tape, regardless of its format, is one that either travels gradually through different styles or ties together songs by single or multiple elements. For someone who is looking for new music on Muxtape, this is key. Say you click on a random user name from the homepage, and it takes you to a list where you only recognize one or two bands that you like. If you give the list a chance, you’re pretty likely to hear more things you like. That’s the spirit of the mix tape – aside from giving a message, it gives you that “similar artists” function naturally instead of calculating it the way last.fm does. But I’ll admit, I use last.fm too (add me: unxfinished).
From my experience, using patience to give Muxtape pages full listens as opposed to using the sampling method is really effective for both enjoyment and education aspects. For example, I learned a lot about bluegrass-inspired contemporary music by exploring JBIRD’s list, which included the solo work of Band of Horses‘ Tyler Ramsey (who played at Sophia’s last weekend). The same playlist drifted into the rootsy origin of Ramsey’s sound, with artists like Dire Straits‘ Mark Knopfler and eventually a track from the honorable Doc Watson. It’s funny what the Internet can teach you when you’re not looking to learn.
Also from exploring Muxtape, I was turned on to new music I had never considered before from genres I hold a lot of ignorance about. For example, who knew French hip-hop was so good, and what mainstream radio rap fan in the United States wouldn’t enjoy MC Solaar?
Muxtape possesses a multidimensional function, and especially for me, it opens up my eyes to new things while making it quick and painless for me to find music to listen to as opposed to an overwhelming iTunes library. My only criticism is that because all MP3s are linked to an Amazon search, sometimes clicking “buy this MP3” will result in “search has found no results.” But if a listener is truly interested, a little web browsing will do for finding a place to purchase the song.
But for a music listening website, I’d place Muxtape over Pandora.com or last.fm as one of the best ways to find new music, although it does not customize itself to your interests after it learns your listening habits. But in a way, that’s for the better – I’d prefer to seek out music than to be handed it; it’s a more valuable and earned experience.
You can view NICOLE L. BROWNER’s carefully crafted first muxtape by visiting unxfinished.muxtape.com. Tell her how much it sucks or how much it moved you at firstname.lastname@example.org.XXX