Here at Independent Music Advice, we like to listen to what you as the reader wants. We’ve had many people arriving at our site looking for advice on making mixtapes, but not really finding what they were looking for. Having a quick google search myself, I found there are no real resources showing musicians what to think about when making mixtapes. So we decided to write one!
Over the next three posts we will be looking at some of the most searched for mixtape questions we’ve had! If there’s anything else you want to add or ask, please do so in the comments section.
Once you’ve read this, one please also check out:
for more mixtape tips and advice.
What Is A Mixtape
While mixtapes were originally tapes which compiled people’s favourite songs together, the modern meaning is quite different. Mixtapes are now widely used as a tool for promoting a musician prior to a album or single release. They can also be used to raise awareness of a musician, keeping them in the public eye. While mixtapes are mostly popular in the hip hop and grime music scenes, many other music genres make demos that can typically be described as mixtapes.
To make it clear:
- A mixtape does not have to be in tape format. It is most popularly presented in CD or digital download format.
- While they can be, mixtapes don’t have to be ‘mixed’. Many are in fact a group of songs put together with a small gap in-between like a regular album.
- While you can use original production for your mixtapes, many people choose to use established instrumentals and save the original material for their album and single releases.
- Mixtapes are generally at least least six tracks long, but some can fill up a whole 80 minute CD.
- Although often sold, mixtapes are generally used as promotional products. They’re used to raise awareness of a given musician, sometimes before an album launch.
- Mixtapes aren’t expected to be at the same quality level as albums, so musicians often use them to get material to the public without worrying about using expensive studios and top quality packaging.
Why Make A Mixtape?
- Collecting Beats Tend To Be Easier.As many people vocal other people’s instrumentals for their mixtapes, finding backing tracks that are suitable to use can be a lot easier. You don’t have to deal with lazy producers that take ages to get anything to you, you can simply find a instrumental you like online and instantly download it. As many musicians listen to other music in their chosen genre, it can be easy to draw up a list of backing tracks you want to use due to the fact you’ve heard and enjoyed them already. This can cut a lot of time of the planning process.
- People Who Haven’t Heard You Before Are More Likely To Listen.One of the main selling points for making a mixtape is that people will be more likely to give your music a chance. It can take people a few times listening to a new song before it actually registers with them, especially if it’s a musician that’s new to them. If however you’re a musician and you’re vocals are over one of their favourite songs, you’re more or less guaranteed to have their attention immediately! This is not to say they’ll end up liking your vocal (You will of course need to make your version enjoyable), but you should get more people giving you that initial chance.
- Subject Matters Are Easier.Some people choose to base their version of a song on the original, keeping the same theme and same vocal styles (E.G. The voice or flow of the original vocalist, similar catchy bits, same subject matter as the original etc). This saves time on constantly thinking up new concept ideas, and allows you to save your original ideas for your singles or album.
- Mixtapes Are Cheaper To Produce.As mixtapes aren’t expected to be of the same quality as albums, you don’t have to put the same amount of time into it as you would producing an album. And if you’ve ever read more then one post at Independent Music Advice, you’ll know that time is money. Many people don’t use adilibs when making their mixtape, this saves on studio time and therefore money. Many musicians also don’t use top end recording studios when making mixtapes, allowing cheaper studio costs but still a good level of production.Another way some musicians save money when putting out mixtapes is the packaging. Some choose to go for slim line CD cases rather then the more expensive jewel CD cases used for albums. This means the CD is still protected against damage, but for a fraction of the cost.One thing I’ll say about making mixtapes on the cheap however is this: Don’t sacrifice the quality so much that your music becomes un-listen-able. Although you should make small cut backs so your album looks and sounds better then your mixtape (This’ll make people want your album even if they already have lots of your mixtape songs), you need to remember the mixtape is what pre sells the album so needs to sound good in its own right. If you make a poor mixtape, chances are people won’t buy your album.
How To Make Money From Mixtapes
How do you make money from mixtapes? Well, you make money from mixtapes in the same way you’d make money from a single or album; By selling them. You can get your mixtape in shops worldwide, from the smaller underground record shops, to the major high street music outlets. You should also get your mixtapes on popular websites such as iTunes and Napster. The best way of doing this is via a distribution website called Songcast (This website is free to sign up to so I suggest you sign up and have a look around). Some people also choose to sell their mixtapes in person on busy high streets, setting up base near popular shops within their music genre.
It’s also a good idea to sell your mixtapes at any live shows you do, especially if you’re the headline act. If this is the case, people will be attending the show to see you, and many will want to take home a souvenir of the occasion. And what better to give (Sell) them then your mixtape?
Depending on the content of your mixtape (And if you use other people’s instrumentals or not) you may be also able to claim royalties from your mixtape plays. If one of the songs from your mixtape gets played on legal radio for example, if the production and vocals are original you can claim royalties for it. If the production is not original and you haven’t got the owner’s permission to use the instrumental however, you won’t be able to claim money from royalties (And they may even be able to approach you and ask you for money).
Parts two and three of the ultimate mixtape guide are now out, so check them out via the below links for some more great mixtape tips!
That’s it for part one, in part two (Of three) we’ll be asking if you can use other people’s beats on your mixtape, we’ll be looking at where you can get beats for your mixtapes from, and finally looking at ways to make your mixtape stand out from the crowd.
Make sure you sign up to email updates at the top of this page to be sent parts two and three directly to your email inbox. Alternatively, sign up to the RSS feed below to be notified whenever we have a new post. As always, I’m looking forward to reading your comments.