Fellow editor Bob Hopkinson and I started talking about mixtapes a few nights ago; specifically, the difference between mixtapes you made on cassettes and mixtapes you make in the digital age.
Ultimately, making a mixtape on a cassette is a more empathetic process because you're forced to experience the whole thing in real time. In order to record the tape, you have to listen to every single song in its entirety, giving you plenty of opportunities to put yourself into the perspective of a listener experiencing the compilation for the first time. You’re simultaneously a neophyte and the Man Behind The Curtain, a forced duality for sure -- but one that arguably results in better, more carefully considered results. Case in point: the last mixtape I received on cassette made me cry; the first mixtape I ever received on a CD started with The Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend The Night Together”, immediately followed by David Bowie’s cover of “Let’s Spend The Night Together.” A subtle touch drives the ladies wild!
Compiling a playlist to burn to a disc, put on an iPod, or place in a folder to upload is an entirely different experience. I find myself only checking the first and last fifteenish seconds of each song to make sure the transitions don’t sound atrocious, expending maybe 5-10 minutes' total effort into compiling the whole thing. Although the end recipient will experience my efforts as a whole, for me as mixtape playlist-maker the assembly process is more akin to posting a series of beloved images on Tumblr: a totality I create with no context for what the end state will be.