The cassette tape is dead

While the name “mixtape” might be persistent in our culture, the devices for transmitting the art continue to change. I never made a mixtape on a cassette tape. By the time I had moved out of my I-only-listen-to-Enya phase, technology had sufficiently advanced to allow me to burn CDs when I wanted to share the multitudes of new sounds I had discovered. And I never called it a mixdisc, nor do I now call them mixed-MP3s or mixed-digital-music-across-the-Internet.

As bandwidth and storage become cheaper, free, and minimally advertised “easy” services have become more popular. While there are many free services for transmitting even large files across the Internet, recently a number of free mixtape sharing services have spread like blogfire.

The first and most absolutely Spring 2008 viral has been Muxtape (www.muxtape.com), a super-simple, straightforward website that allows you to make a username, upload up to 12 of your MP3s, and then gives you a link to share your muxtape with friends. Nothing else: No bells, no whistles, although they do give you all the customization of a single hex color value.

Yet as simple as this seems, the legality is certainly questionable. The Muxtape “terms” are only a single paragraph, covering a couple standard legal areas: users can only upload songs they have permission to use, with only one song per album or artist, and users cannot create more than one muxtape. The terms conclude simply; “Muxtape is alive,” the site reads. While Muxtape claims to be alive (and I have my serious doubts as to the life of a website) it seems likely that if the service becomes too alive, it also becomes a serious target for the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). Certainly, Muxtape will attempt to say it cannot control what songs users upload, but it is unlikely this will hold any weight.

So what if a service existed where users did not have to upload their own songs, you say? Ah well that brings us around to Mixwit (www.mixwit.com). Mixwit also allows users to create sharable mixtapes with a website design that sacrifices some simplicity for that why-yes-we-do-have-a-business-model-thank-you look. And Mixwit is likely a bit safer in the legal arena. By not actually allowing users to post songs, Mixwit avoids hosting any content, illegal and otherwise; the service functions only as a portal for finding already posted MP3s, leveraging two media search engines, Skreemr and Seeqpod. This way, as long as the MP3 is online somewhere, Mixwit can add it to a mixtape.

And these aren’t your only choices. There is also AloneTone (www.alonetone.com), which, although awkwardly named, is billed for musicians. Additionally, Songza (www.songza.com) wants to be your Internet jukebox and Mixaloo (www.mixaloo.com) wants you to create a mix, and then make tons and tons of money.

So if we judge the power of Internet mixtape services on quantity, we certainly have found the future of the mixtape — the art of selecting a dozen or so songs, arranging them with perfect and subtle transitions, and then imposing your personal music taste on your friends. So with that, dear friends, I leave you with the following mixtape: www.tinyurl.com/4xspu9.