Making compilation tapes was a huge part of being a music fan for as long as cassettes were a valid way of listening to music. As first CDs and then MP3s took over the market, the humble tape found itself obsolete, and so did the homemade compilations. But social website/app 8tracks is hoping to change all that.
I used to love making tapes for people, and lots of my schoolfriends ‘benefitted’ from my exhaustive love of music and lack of a social life, and I managed to get them into a lot of bands that I liked through them. There was something about the process of cueing up the song you wanted to copy, getting the timings right and trying to avoid cut-off noises that made it an art-form as well as a labour of love.
Of course, technology has changed a lot about the process, making even the relatively straightforward compact disc look fiddly and awkward (I made my fair share of compilation CDs in the past too, not least for my wife when we started going out). Making playlists in iTunes or Spotify takes a matter of seconds and you can play with the order all you like by dragging tracks around, adding new ones, deleting, etc.
They’re also a lot more transitory now, you can make a playlist for a car journey, then you’re done with it, and you’re pretty much the only person who heard it. But 8tracks gives you the chance to make a mix that you can share with the world simply by uploading your chosen songs to the website (they apparently pay licensing fees, so there’s nothing dodgy going on), giving your mix a cover and a description and submitting.
I’ve already made three mixes and uploaded them and have been pleasantly surprised to find lots of strangers ‘liking’ them. You can hear them here. Even if you don’t want to get into sharing your bizarre and embarrassing taste in music with random people around the world, you can still enjoy listening to theirs, and there’s all kinds of mixes out there, based around all kinds of themes and genres (lots about sex, because it’s the internet and you need to make people think you’re having lots of sex when you are on the internet).
8tracks seems to be doing pretty well, having featured in Time’s Websites Of The Year last year and with lots of people uploading new mixes every day at the moment. It still doesn’t quite capture the magic of the mix-tape days, but I’ve really enjoyed using it so far, and it makes for a good way to discover new music that you might like, especially as the phone app works well for browsing and listening. If you do get hooked, make sure you follow me!