Ah, the lost art of making someone a mixtape. Remember those? Tapes? Why, in my day we had to walk uphill both ways just to get a cassette tape and we’d record songs on them for our loved ones. These days you can just make a Spotify playlist. Where’s the fun in that? Fuckin’ kids these days.
But imagine, for a second, that you have a cool guy or gal that you want to take the time out of your day for and want to give them something that they’ll (probably) (unless you just suck at life) treasure forever. Who wouldn’t love a great collection of music? Deaf people. Mitt Romney. But for other people: here are some pointers.
And yes, this applies for playlists, too. But the songs have to work together.
Don’t start with a fast song.
The biggest mistake you can make is front-loading your mix with a big, epic turd of a song that blows your load way too early. Remember that you’re in this game for the next 45 minutes (give or take a few minutes) and that if you’re making some sort of grandiose statement at the front-end nobody is gonna want to hear what you have, say, twenty minutes later.
Make your intentions known by the third song.
If you’re trying to woo somebody, don’t put the Space Jam theme song (you’re welcome, by the way) on there. By the third song you should make your intentions known. You don’t need to throw in Enrique Inglesias’s classic hit “Tonight I’m Fucking You” but you should maybe throw in, say, a Norah Jones or Van Morrison track. Which reminds me…
Deep cuts, not big hits.
You don’t want a collection of big hits. That’s what Now That’s What I Call Music is for. What you should be aiming for is atmosphere. Go for the lesser known tracks of an artist: you’re not going to impress a girl or guy if you show up with a greatest hits compilation, because… (skip to 1:10)
Don’t be this guy.
Your loneliness will come through. Be confident. Make a mix that says confidence and honesty. You’d be surprised how those two qualities can get you through most things, mixtapes included.
Listen to the lyrics.
If you’ve made a good mixtape you’ve also listened to the words. God knows I’ve gotten 3/4 of the way through something and had the last verse of the last song be ruined by a war protest diatribe. Not that I don’t love Sixto Rodriguez, he made 2 great albums, but the song didn’t fit and I had to work on it again.
Having said that, nobody wants an album of “sad Hulk music.”
Spend some time on a good cover.
Spend 20 minutes making a decent presentation for the mix you just made. Hand it to them with a certain amount of pride. Don’t just scrawl their names in Sharpie on the cover and call it a day. People want something that they’ll think you’ve spent a lot of time on. That goes for the mix and the cover.
There are more rules, absolutely, but these should get you started.