A member of our VIP Platinum Facebook Group asked the other day if mixtapes were dead and buried in these modern times. The only way to make it as a DJ these days, he argued, was to have a popular track that you’d produced, and to be a social media expert. Why go to the time and trouble of crafting great mixtape when people have short attention spans, and when Facebook popularity seems to count for everything?
We certainly felt his pain here in the office, and it led to a lively debate! Indeed, why should you spend weeks compiling your tunes, practising your transitions, going through the agony of multiple takes, and finally ending up with a mix that you’re half happy with, only to upload it to Mixcloud or wherever and watch it gather digital dust, with few listens, likes or follows?
Likewise, why should you go to the trouble of dishing out CDs of your mix to clubs and promoters, when the chances of actually getting booked from one of those CD drops is akin to dishing out a few dog-eared CVs and expecting to land a dream job?
Well, there are a lot of very good reasons, as it turns out, and we’re going to lay it out for you here today. So if you’re struggling to finish a mixtape, or losing faith in dishing mixes out to people, or watching your mixes flounder on the online sites you’d hoped would make your name, read on! Here’s some inspiration and ideas to hopefully help you regain the faith…
7 reasons why mixtapes still matter
- Mixtapes make you better, faster – I am going to assume you try very, very hard to make those transitions and tricks on your mixtape perfect – right? So that effort all counts for something. Stuff that you have to put a lot of work into for mixtape will, down the line, come back to you seemingly effortlessly in your live sets. In short, mixtapes force you to stretch yourself, and you WILL remember, recall and use that stuff in your career
- Mixtapes are a great substitute for gigs – Not all of us can get a great DJ gig in our diaries every weekend, or even every month. But looking forward to and planning a mix, then posting it (and maybe even performing it live on a platform like chew.tv) can be a great replacement in those gig-free times, forcing us to be disciplined enough to practise, buy tunes and even give us a bit of an adrenaline rush on “gig day”
- Mixtapes can blow up years later! – So let’s say you finally get your “big break”, which nowadays could be anything from a resident at a local club, to a radio show, to – yes – a production that blows up. Now, all those mixtape that have languished on a dark corner of the internet are your “calling cards”. Now, people can’t get enough of you. Luckily for them, there’s a few years of your skills, right there. Get ready for those thousands of listens you dreamed of…
- Mixtapes help you document your journey – Those tunes you love today, that you think will be your best friends forever? Trust me, this time next year, or in five years, you’ll have forgotten 90% of them. Your style, what you’re passionate about now? It’ll be a fading memory. Unless you document your journey as a DJ with regular mixtapes, of course…
- Mixtapes legitimise your DJing – A trouble with DJing is that it’s ephemeral, it’s live, it is “in the moment”. You’re only as good as your last mix, is the cliche. Not doing mixes is a bit like a poet who only does spoken word gigs and won’t ever write any of it down! You need mixtapes because they are your proof, your calling card, the timeless, permanent version of what you do
- Mixtapes give you a sense of achievement – Maybe because you work that much harder on each mix, maybe because it’s a project with a conception, execution and end product, or maybe because it’s just a great feeling to hand a lovely mix that you’ve made, in a great cover, to someone who really wants it… but whatever, finishing and beholding a mix feels good! And rightly so – they remain something to be proud of
- Mixtapes CAN get you gigs! – Yes, to be a superstar touring DJ you need to produce music. Sure, having that social media following helps. But a properly produced, well-made mixtape certainly can get your foot on the ladder. Just check out this free case study with Bella Cuts, a student of our Pro Mixtape Formula course, who is blowing up in Berlin – one of the most competitive cities in the world for DJs – and whose mixtapes have played a huge part in that.
If you look at making mixtapes as a means unto itself and not just a means to an end, and enjoy the art, craft and satisfaction of making them, you’ll feel better about them than if you make just one single mix, and expect it to be your big break! It doesn’t work like that… but in truth, it never did.
Of course, it still helps if all your mixes are well produced, well presented, and handled correctly on the sites you upload them to. That certainly skews things in your favour. And it helps if you don’t find them absolutely torturous to make, too (again, Pro Mixtape Formula can help by teaching you a system to make mixes quickly and painlessly, so you make more of them).
Even if you’re chasing a residency in a local club, a mixtape is only going to support your attempts to land that gig, not be the single thing that lands it. And yes, you’re going to need to get good at producing music to move past that point, even when you have landed your gig. But that doesn’t mean mixtapes are suddenly redundant or not worth doing, as I hope this article has shown.
• Want to read that free Bella Cuts case study about “making it” in Berlin, and how mixtapes were instrumental in her rise? Get it here.
Do you make regular mixtapes? How have they helped you in your career? Do you think in 2015 it’s worth making mixtape, productions… or both? Please share your thoughts below.