Digital Mixtapes: Everything Old is New Again

Now that we’ve all made the shift to organize our formerly physical music collections into digital music libraries and iPod playlists, the necessary next logical next step is to wax nostalgic for the outdated technology that’s come before. Albeit a remixed version.

Music junkies can pick their analogue poison: whether you love to hoard (and reminisce about) old vinyl 12″s, 45″s, 8-tracks, or even CDs, there’s a community of like minded collectors out there who share your passion.

But the great, long lost love of the iPod generation is an irreplaceable fondness for the humble mixtape.

This occasionally artful gift of mixed music has been the format of choice to be shared dubbed and exchanged between friends, lovers, enemies, and family members for decades.

But all that was pre-iTunes.

Now that we’ve traded in many of our physical, real-world things for lesser-grade, virtual versions, it makes sense that many music fans (me included) have grown hungry to integrate the mixtape format into our digitized lives.

With that in mind, several companies have sprung up recently that cater to music fans who are are decidedly nostalgic for two wheels of slow-winding, magnetic taped music, formatted into A and B sides, packaged with hand-crafted, inky titles, maybe some personalized artwork for the sleeve, and a little Dolby Noise Reduction to help hush the tape hiss.

Muxtape offers the least tactile version of this service, but has organized a 12 song streamed, mp3 mixtape service — with a dead easy user interface — that has blown up in just a few short months. Muxtape’s success has even led to the creation of mini web apps like Muxfind and Muxtape Stumbler that allow users to search for specific bands, songs, and genres extracted from the hundreds of Muxtapes being created.

Mixwit offers a similar service, but let’s you search for songs from the online catalogues of Seeqpod and Skreemr to add songs (instead of uploading them) to your tape, then you can customize its title, look & feel and embed your virtual tape on any site, where it plays with the cute animated addition of rotating tape wheels.

And then there’s MIXA which makes entirely customizable, “USB cassettes” that you can design, purchase, and the pre-load with the mixtape (or muxtape!) of your choosing. The MIXA crew even has their own Flickr group started where users have uploaded pics of their favourite mixas.

Here at the office, we’ve taken to playing many a Muxtape in the office lately, which has proven to be a great way to find offbeat music and to boost the mood in the office, although, if I have to hear Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa one more time I might put a Pitchfork through both my ears.

Nevertheless, I like these remixed versions of old school tapes. I’ve yet to order a customized Mixa, but I did make a mixwit tape of early 90s hip-hop this morning. If you happen to get a craving for some early NaS, Souls of Mischief, Jeru, Tribe, and Pharcyde you might want to kick back and listen to a little ‘illmatic magic‘.

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