Do you remember the mixtapes? I do, and I miss them a lot.
Today, I explained to Pau, my eleven-year-old son, that there was a time without Apple Music or Spotify. Without internet, and even without Compact Disks. We use cassette tapes in the ’80s and part of the ’90s (and before, of course).
We bought cassette tapes, which was very cool, but even more incredible was recording your favourite songs from the radio. Or from other cassette tapes if you had a double-deck device. Everybody was doing it, and we all shared those tapes with friends and family. It wasn’t free though, you had to buy the recordable cassette tape and invest your time to make the recording, but after that, you could listen forever. Also, you could record them over and over. The quality was terrible for today’s standards, but it sounded amazing to us.
My best experience with cassette tapes was around 1989 or so. My parents allowed me to go on a solo trip to the south of Spain. It was a train trip of more than 20 hours in total, involving several trains. When I caught the last train in Tarragona, I felt incredible. That one would take me to Jerez the la Frontera, my first destination. I would sleep on the train! It did stop several times, and in Valencia, an American young guy, probably ten years older than me, sat in front of me. I didn’t know English at all, but we communicated the whole trip. We slept very few hours. We did express ourselves with basic words and tons of hand gestures. He had a vast backpack, so I supposed he was travelling around Europe. His last stop was Sevilla. I remember that that took quite a while to understand, but pointing to a map did help. When we close to his destination, he reached into his backpack. He took a shiny cassette tape and offered it to me as a present. I wasn’t expecting that, but I did the same. I grabbed my walkman and gave him the tape that I was listening to. It was my mixtape of Spanish hits, mostly Hombres G and similar things.
The tape that he gave me stayed with me for more than ten years. The first time I listened to that tape, I must confess I did not understand a thing. I was not used to Hip-hop and other related genres, so I did not listen to it much. With time I realized how good that tape was. It was packed with what now we call classics. There is no doubt that that guy musical experience was more significant than mine.
Latter CD appeared, and we could do the same, but it involved a PC and some software. It wasn’t for everybody. In the end, It was not the same. Only geeks were doing it and not sharing much because everybody can have the same. It seemed that it was more important to have all the music than the musical experience itself. It was about the year 2000 that I did stop to discovering music and just mainly listened to what I knew. Of course, I did encounter things here and there, but it wasn’t a habit of looking for new sounds and musical experiences. I was basically “going with the flow”.
Many things happened between then and now, but I would like to jump to the current moment. Now we have it all. I have been an Apple Music subscriber since its appearance and before I was using Spotify. Those are great platforms, but even with that, I was not listening to music like before. There are several reasons for that.
I can not listen to music while working. My work requires all my total concentration, and I can not afford to be distracted by anything. I’m committed to doing the best job I can, and I won’t achieve that if I do not focus entirely. There is no space for music or any other thing for that matter.
While I’m not working and around the house, I listen to podcasts and audiobooks. I have been a subscriber to Audible for the last 12 years. During that time, I did listen to more than two hundred books. And I also love Podcast. I use Castro.app every day to listen to my favourite shows. I use it as well as a language learning platform, and nowadays, eighty per cent of what I listen to is in French, the language I’m learning at the moment.
The only real moment I listen to music is while running, which I do five times a week. But even there, I have huge constraints. I use the music as a tempo meeter, and all the songs there should be at 90 or 180 bpm to help me keep my pace. I have a playlist with specific pieces for that purpose.
As you can see, there is not much space for music in my schedule. But since I miss it, I have committed to improving that. Music has been a massive part of my life. Notice that I have played the guitar since I was 16, and I did learn piano for a couple of years. So, how to solve it? I have no idea yet. I’m investigating and experimenting here and there, and while doing that, I had an idea. Why not recover the mixtape experience?
I have been thinking about it for the last year, and after listening to the latest Radiolab episode titled “Mixtape: Dakou”, I believe now is the moment to give it a go. I’ll find a way to force myself to experience music listening again, probably by reducing the number of podcasts and audiobooks. Then, I’ll create mixtapes and share them with friends and family. To do that, I can’t use cassette tapes, unfortunately. I have no way to record them, and nobody around me has players anymore. Instead, I’ll use the current technologies. I’ll use Apple Music (see below for an explanation about it).
So, this is what I’ll do:
- I’ll create a mixtape in a playlist of no more than ten songs every month. I will include discoveries, one classic and one crazy or at least a completely different theme. I’ll name it “Mixtape
- " and make it public in my Apple music profile. That Playlist will also include some comments on why those songs.
- I’ll create a playlist that will include them all called “Mixtape all times” that will consist of all other mixtapes and share it the same way.
- I’ll announce to my colleagues and to anyone that wants. I’ll keep it low tech for now using my blog.
Today is the last day of October 2021, and I’ll publish the first one!
Why Apple Music? Well, it is what is natural to me. I do not do this to gain an audience or anything similar. I do it because I would like to share my love for music with friends and anybody who wants to listen. I was a Spotify subscriber for years before Apple Music, but I realized that I liked “the Apple way” more. There is nothing better in one or the other; it is just a matter of taste.
UPDATE 2021-11-01: I did receive requests to have them also in Spotify, so I’ll publish them in both platforms. Here it is my profile
UPDATE 2021-11-27: Oh yeah! Also requests from people on YouTube Music
If you are also sharing a mixtape, please let me know. I’ll be happy to follow other people doing similar things. We can create “The Mixtape Club”. :D
You can find my Apple Music profile here: Jose Lobato on Apple Music