I Miss The Mixtape

We all know about DRM, SOPA, CISPA, FROLUTA (I made that one up) and so on.  This will not primarily be a diatribe on these restrictions, but rather on the joy they are taking away.  With technology advancing as rapidly and powerfully as it is, its still a wonder that any law can even attempt to stop the sharing of music.

It seems like we’ve been focusing on nostalgia recently, and maybe that’s true.  I turned 29, so why not see it as a chance to look back and reflect, while anticipating the various apocalyptic events that the internet tells us are about to happen.

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How is there not the greatest app on the planet for creating a “Mixtape” or playlist, and sending that to your friend.  Like, fucking really.  Can the soon to be pointless RIAA really prevent a programmer from anonymously writing this app and just putting it out there?  Napster 2.0.

Most of us came up in the CD era.  Mix CD’s were fantastic.  I guess they’re still out there, but at a rapidly dwindling rate.  I’ve only used a CD recently on one car trip, but before that, it was many months before I hit an actual play button.

Sure we have a billion blogs out there, but you really can’t trust one of them all the time. Once in a while a gem comes through, but you don’t hang out with a blog.  You don’t know who it’s going to try and yell at when it gets drunk.  You don’t know its real favorite bands, not just the ones various PR agencies get it to promote.  Music should come from your friends.

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The majority of new music I have fallen in love with has come directly from live humans telling me about them.  And you know what?  They still cant just send me a link to a fucking mix they’ve created so I can load that shit on my iphone, enjoy the music, pay $20 to see the band live where a way bigger share of that $ goes to the band, then buy their release on vinyl.  All because someone sent me a link.

Bands will always record music.  It’s just something that happens.  It’s getting cheaper and cheaper to record.  Make it yourself.  If it’s a successful band, spend some money and do it in a studio, and you will have better sounding music that will inspire people to come see you live and buy your kick ass merch (signature spatulas, twisty straws, temporary tattoos, that stuff) and special release music.

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Amanda Palmer raised A MILLION DOLLARS on kickstarter.  Stop complaining.

Back to the point though, I miss the mix.  You get a chance to peek inside someone’s brain.  What song did they open with?  Is there a common theme to discover in everything they want you to hear?  THIS SHIT IS FASCINATING.  I can tell you precisely the last Mix CD’s I recieved.  A group of friends would all pass around burned copies of mixes, numbered by volume.  I even took part, dubbing mine “Serious Business.”

All of the elements involved only contributed.  Even writing the tracklist, putting your handwriting on there, it all makes it more personal.  Not that I’m pining for the analog days, the same effect can come from any text, turn your mixtape cover into an internet meme.  (I’m In Ur Tape….Mixin.)

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The labels are going away.  There’s really no point to it now.  The rights holders to anything recorded before this very minute, will all seek to defend their copyrights to the death, which is understandable if someone is using music for commercial purposes, but perhaps one day, music sharing will not be seen as so negative.  All we can hope, is that it becomes almost like prohibition. The RIAA either needs to disappear, or run out of money so they can’t sue single parents on welfare who rescue adorable puppies and walk old ladies across the street, for downloading a Toby Keith album.

Spotify is an annoying mess, the search doesn’t turn up the results you’re looking for.  And if you have to link it to Facebook, its just a headache.  A mix of music isn’t something you want to share with ALL of your friends, just a select few.  When I see that a friend has used Spotify to listen to the collective hits of Collective Soul, they don’t want me to see that.  Frankly. I don’t want to see it.  Some things need to be kept private.

We need another Napster.  It killed an industry that was already dying and exploiting all sorts of people.  Some things can’t be monetized forever.  Why not just share it?  Yes, that’s the most idealistic free love sentence I have ever typed, but I stand fully behind it.  Let’s end on that note.

Foo, Digital, Cassettes, Everything.

Well dear blog, it seems as though we have drifted apart in recent times.  Rest assured, you still hold a place in my heart, as much as text on a computer screen can.

Lets see, why have I returned on this nondescript spring day.  The truth is I’m not completely sure.  Lets just talk about some stuff.

I really  miss cassettes.  I just plain do.  While discussing recording with Web Master Numero Uno – Eric Sagatarius Tarn the other day, it occurred to me that musicians around my age came of age at a unique time technologically.  When our highschool band recorded our first sessions, they were on lower budget DA88 tapes.  A sort of pro-sumer format.  When we had a tiny bit of money to spend, we recorded to 2″ 16 track tape.  Because that was what the professionals were using.  There was no pro tools.  Man, I sound old.  We had to actually play everything ourselves, with no quantizing or pitch correction.  Very strange.

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Dave Grohl recently has spoken at length about how the recent foo fighters album was recorded all analog in his garage.  Now, while the analog comment is fully respectable and praise worthy (both for its challenge and old school aesthetic) the garage comment is certainly not.  Yes, you made it in your garage with a tape machine.  That garage is bigger than most Americans’ houses, and those tape machines cost tens of thousands of dollars each.  You also have about 100K worth of console (an API 1608 with add ons) and TONS of outboard pre amps.  So stop saying its a fucking garage record, ok man?  Just say you made it to tape, ok?  Also, is it not a little strange that a band can be commended for making an album using a process that was the standard for every record not that long ago?   Nevertheless, we commend.

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I’m sure I’ve talked about vinyl and whatnot before, but I’ve been thinking about cassettes a lot recently.  People throw around the word “mix tape” all the time, but I made quite a few back in the day.  Dubbed from vinyl even.  My crappy Sony Walkman was an essential element to any car trip.

Digital at its most amazingly inefficient
Digital at its most amazingly inefficient

And really, did they sound that bad?  Yeah, there was all that crackle from the deteriorating casettes and whatnot, but the feeling still came across.  Hell, when using my first home studio setup of a single 8 track ADAT recorder, we fucking MIXED to cassette man!  I dont know, there’s something endearing about those crappy little wheels spinning.

I keep my cassette archive in a milk crate these days, holding early days of musical development, I totally need some sort of deck to digitize those things.

Tonight we are seeing The Bad Plus with Joshua Redman at the Blue Note, sure to be an interesting event.  Lots of shows coming up, perhaps some posts will result.