The Best Music Ever
During the past three years, I've been asked over and over why mixtaping is still relevant in a time of file-sharing and the reign of "Now That's What I Call Music". Simply put, mixtaping is one of the last standing monuments to popular music's longevity. Despite the music industry's focus on first-week units sold, mixtapers are the support system for the artists' entire catalogs and can serve as an effective measure of long-term prospects. As the recording industry turns out supremely questionable product and the mainstream media praises disposable commerce over art, it's actually the mixtaper who stands alone in his or her dedication to both the format and its content, recontextualizing songs as a significant means of communication. Although popular music is more accessible than ever, the mixtape relies on the music listener, not the radio programmer or label executive, to decide what's worthy of repeat plays and future sales. Similarly, the International Mixtape Project relies on the dedication of genuine music fans to decide how to capture a moment in time...month after month after month.
In the long run for artists, appearances on mixtapes may translate better to total sales than radio and MTV play. For instance, there's a Modest Mouse for every James Blunt, a T.I. for every Brooke Hogan, and a Death Cab for Cutie for every single Black Eyed Pea. Even the successes of longstanding mainstream giants like Green Day, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The Flaming Lips are as much a result of mixtaping culture as they are of business savvy. These are the acts that prove that listeners -- also known as consumers -- play a much more important role in developing a lively, profitable music marketplace than industry decision makers like to admit. Mixtapes are indicative of music listeners' investment and, therefore, can predict sales of a given artist's fourth and fifth albums, not just its first. While Clear-Channel-approved disposables clutter dollar bins, the artists recognized most often on mixtapes will survive the test of time and maintain a fan base to support them throughout their careers. This longevity, however, isn't just an outcome of the artists' integrity, ingenuity, or commitment, but is a result of the listeners' role in the relationship. Just ask the Velvet Underground, that indie art band whose first amateur recording nearly sold for a quarter-million dollars on eBay. I challenge you, my dear reader, to find me a more mixtaped band than VU. Really.
Because mixtapes give the listener an opportunity to impart a song with new significance or meaning in its own context, they are an effective way to understand and judge music's long-term value. The folks that pay attention, feel a vibe, and relate on a personal level are the ones that will most likely tell the world and, ultimately, keep a song or artist in the broader public's hearts and minds over a longer period than radio, television, or file-sharing can. Although there is no surefire way to evaluate music's potential to stand the test of time, homemade mixtapes have been a pretty effective micro-indicator all along. After all, the successes of hip-hop, indie rock, and most of the other new music genres to gain attention over the past 25 years have relied on mixtape culture to build steam toward mainstream notoriety.
Along those lines, the International Mixtape Project is a community of experts. In business terms, IMP members are the focus group that has access to every unit of a given commodity ever released into the marketplace. Radio and television are just part of the control set. Who wouldn't want to listen to a compilation of the best songs chosen by someone who really knows his or her stuff? That's what IMP offers its members. And by extension, that's what the global community of mixtapers offers the music world: the best songs ever. So, if you're already a member of the International Mixtape Project, consider yourself relevant. If you're not, I bet you'd like it, so click here to become a member of the International Mixtape Project!
Starting in mid-February, IMP members will be posting original Featured Articles to this space on a regular basis. Features will range from album, song, and concert reviews to original music-related fiction to essays about the momentary or timeless importance of music. So check back regularly and enjoy!
-- Ryan Mixtape, 01/16/2007