Why I Stopped Making Mixtapes

MixtapePeople always ask me for mixtapes, for a variety of reasons – to check out my skills / style of play, sample my music collection, play at a party instead of hiring a DJ (not recommended!), because they need a fresh work-out soundtrack … and so forth.

The DJ mixtape is like an audio business card. It is, in my opinion, the most important way that a DJ advertises his or her services. Mixtapes ought to give people a very good idea of what to expect when the DJ plays at an event.

And that’s why I stopped making them.

Counter-intuitive, huh? Okay, let me explain.

Mixtapes have always played a huge role in DJ culture, particularly the hip-hop DJ culture (i.e. the one that started it all). Before the SoundCloud era, DJs introduced new music to the community. They did this through parties/shows, at clubs, on the radio, and with their mixtapes. Many  DJ greats were defined by their classic mixtapes. People looked forward to their favorite DJs’ mixtapes, so they could hear what’s popping. Artists often got their big break through features on influential DJ mixtapes. Because of all this, there was something classic and timeless about solid mixtapes, and DJs actively pursued those virtues as they crafted their mixes.

Things have changed drastically, thanks to the internet, the plethora of free music-sharing platforms, and the fact that we’re flooded with so much new music nowadays that a lot of it doesn’t leave a lasting impression (or listeners’ attention spans have shortened tremendously. Take your pick :-)). The way a lot of DJs respond to this new dynamic is with VOLUME: we also flood the internet with our mixtapes. As they say, ‘content is king’, so keep churning out new content to keep in-step with the rapid-fire influx of new music.  Sensible move, right?

I don’t think so.

This is a bit difficult to deal with. As a DJ, my mixtapes should show that I am on top of my game, and I keep up with what’s current and popping. But regardless of entertainment trends, quality ALWAYS outlasts quantity. Those classic and timeless virtues I mentioned earlier get lost in all that content we’re spewing onto the web. I had to step back and realize that there’s a delicate balance between RELEVANCE and LEGACY. The former gets me ‘through the door’ and wins some attention, but is based on transient trends. The latter takes time to develop, but will eventually produce a loyal audience that keeps coming back for more!

Let’s face it: nobody has time to listen to my hour-long mixtape – unless they’re simultaneously being distracted by a work-out session, spring cleaning, or some other activity. If I cut it down to 30 minutes, that’s about 15 songs on average – the same 15 songs that 50 other DJs have on their mixtapes! What gives? How do I create my own lane and stand out?

So, I stopped making mixtapes. Well, definitely not as frequently as I used to. Now, I invest a lot of time and resources in identifying the ‘classic’ and ‘timeless’. Taking this approach challenges me to be more thoughtful and creative in my mixtape-crafting process. I’m challenged to see beyond just the stereotypical, to create unique musical experiences that can resonate with everyone.  I’m challenged to be more innovative in the way I connect with my audience, such as short videos (check out The Sessions). And that’s what really keeps people engaged!

Of course, many casual browsers who’re just looking for the trendy stuff don’t spend too much time on my page. Plus, I always get questions like “Your mixtapes are cool … but do you have any new music?” and I have to explain my M.O. over and over again. But it’s all worth it, because I’m building stuff with universal appeal that should stand the test of time. Like the great Grandmaster Flash once said, “It’s either ‘get into them’ [i.e. your audience] and be a legend of all time, or ‘get into yourself’ and be a legend in your own mind”.

TL;DR – I don’t make mixtapes anymore. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I strive to create unique musical experiences through a variety of media – mixtapes, videos, and so forth. It’s more than just putting out the latest content. It’s about quality content that showcases uniqueness and creativity.