Growing up as a ninety’s era butterfly clip wearin’, lip smackers glossin’, Full House watchin’ child, when my favorite musical artists at the time (Britney Spears, Blink 182, N’Sync, BB Mak to name a few) came out with a new CD, you better believe that a stop at the local CD shop was in my plans on the way home from school. Then, when a game changing invention called the “CD Burner” debuted in the early 2000s, I was green with envy of all the kids who got to burn their own mixes. Decorating the front of the CD and handing them out to their crushes and best friends these kids were sharing music with each other before music sharing was such a widely exercised art form. Slowly but surely, as the popularity of CD burners grew, I was finally able to start crafting my first mix CDs.
This day in age, we are all familiar with crafting playlists for special occasions that we can share with our friends through digital music sharing services such as Spotify. However, there seems to be some loss of the essence that goes into making a mix for that special person who helps you with your math homework when you publically share the mixes on the Internet. Didn’t grow up making mix CDs? Here are some tips to help you bring this lost art back!
1. Set the tone.
First, you have to decide what the tone of the mix will be. How do you want your audience to feel when they listen to these songs? Do you want them to follow a linear movement as your songs play out variations of a theme? Or, are they going to be all different types of songs pulling your listeners up into a happy-go-lucky-blast-this-song-in-the-car-with-my-best-friends mood and then plunge them straight down into a ballad about finding another, whose freckles in their eyes are the mirror image of yours?
2. Listeners tend to make snap judgments.
Setting the tone for your mix CD lays the groundwork from which judgments will be made. From the first song to the very last the time it takes people to decide if they should keep listening to that particular track is about 1/8th of the time it takes you to pick what song comes next and it all boils down to the ebb and flow of the music.
3. Educate your audience.
More often that not mix makers tend to put all the gems right at the beginning so as to reel their listeners in and receive that type of instant gratification praise that our society so often craves. The challenge here is to mix those loud and obvious gems with a touch of something different, something that will take your audience outside of their musical bubble without making them too uncomfortable.
4. Make your audience ask questions.
The goal is to get them to realize they are listening to something new and to have them ask themselves, “Who sings this? What’s the name of the song?” Rather than, “Hmm I don’t know this song, on to the next!” Here lies the challenge with introducing new music to a group of people who all have varying tastes.
5. Variety is a friend, not a foe.
Sure, it’s okay that not every one likes or appreciates the same type of music- that is one of the industry’s blessings in disguise. However, it is still important for people who are deeply invested in a certain taste or type of music to grow from that and listen to other things. The more variety we have in our repertoire the more educated and informed we become.
6. Don’t be a music snob.
While it is important to inform your audience of new or different types of music, another challenge for the mix-maker is to not get caught up in making a playlist entirely composed of songs no one has heard of. Sure we like the ego boost that comes when our friends ask, “This song is so good, who is this?” But there is a fine line between educating your audience and being a music snob who can’t appreciate the popularity in POP music.
7. Guilty pleasure songs make a mix well rounded.
It is essential to give your audience a couple feel-good, guilty pleasure, belt-it-out songs that everyone knows the words to. These songs are a part of our pop culture for a reason. They cultivate a sense of empowerment and community much the same way a song that tells the story of your life might. Even if it’s at a party, on a road trip, or playing in the background, giving your audience what they know they want is essential to a cohesive and successful mix-CD.
8. Pop music can be a source of legitimacy.
I’m not saying your beautifully crafted mix CD needs to be littered with singles from the radio’s Top 40 playlist that is dripping in Clear Channel’s billboard advertising money. But it’s okay to put songs on your mix that people have heard of. It helps to give your audience a sense of legitimacy and allows them to further appreciate the hidden gems that are your “outside the box” tracks.
Follow these sure-fire etiquette rules and you can single handily help revive the mix CD art form that we’ve lost sight of in this heightening digital age. Soon people will be asking you when the next edition of your mix CD will be gifted to them. Need some inspiration? Take a look at the tracks on my Winter 2014 Mix CD – notice any gems? (Hint: Beyoncé rules all).