Evolution eats through sanctity with no regard for legacy. It’s an undeniable fact that applies just as much to music as it does to outdated social sedative mythologies- just ask vinyl. After the clunky, short-lived 8-track brought a new portability to the listening experience, cassettes came along, and as a format they were a damn sight more convenient, in both size and playback versatility, than the alternative.
While they certainly didn’t push to any new heights of artistic potential from the source, cassettes blew open the doors of listener involvement. As tape decks, Walkmen and boomboxes popped up everywhere in the eighties, the mixtape was also born, and quickly rose to fame.
Mixtapes changed the listening experience well beyond physical format. They allowed the audiophile to become a part of the production and create an entirely new patchwork piece of art. Making mixtapes for girls in school was better than any love note or retarded poem- it was a way to flirt and even show off a little without tripping over your braces or showing the world how epileptic your handwriting was. Sure, our tastes in music were, in retrospect, shotgun-gobbling bad, but hey, we were kids.
But I was the fucking champion, man. Before I could afford one of those space-age dual-cassette recorders, I remember waiting all goddamned day by the radio for the right song to come on so I could hit record. Practical? Hell no. But I was a kid with all the time in the pre-internet world, and getting that mix right meant everything to me.
Then the CD came along, and the terms convenience and versatility were entirely redefined. Did we notice that the sound quality had diminished a bit? Sure, and some of us even cared. But not nearly enough to convince anybody that cassettes weren’t dead in the water.
The MP3 was the weird guy in school for a good period of time. It took a few years to catch on with the masses, but now it’s far and away the most popular format. Once Napster took hold, there was no turning back. P2P and online music services enabled us to access an unprecedented wealth of music; you’ve now got access to any album you can fathom, virtually any song that’s ever been recorded. And if you know where to look, it’s free. Like I said before, CD sales are tanking, labels are fucked, and there’s, inarguably, a new school rising. Notice how I said ‘school’ there, and not ‘order.’ Because there is no fucking order. It’s chaos. It’s pure goddamned insanity, and it perfectly suits the state of the world today.
The soul-mate union of CD burners and the internet allowed the mixtape to evolve exponentially. I was ecstatic. I went through blank CDs like the disposable coasters they are, burning mixes for my friends and my damn self, sampling new bands, sharing newly-discovered classics and revisiting old humiliating glory days in music within a 74 minute timeframe. Each became a sonic canvas of pure entertainment, and served as a time capsule of favorites and listening habits- nearly as much a snapshot of yourself as of the music.
CDs, however, are just about as dead as cassettes now. Who doesn’t have an iPod or some kind of MP3 player? No more worrying about skipping or scratching the disc. Hell, no more disc, period! No clunky, expensive and wasteful case that just adds more clutter to life but you can’t bring yourself to throw away. And you can see the track names! The advantages of MP3 players over CDs go on and on. The physical product has become nearly as much about the player as the music. Download, transfer, disconnect and play wherever, whenever.
Muxtape made a big splash over the summer, with an innovative concept that allowed users to upload MP3s and share them with friends via streaming links. It was a great evolutionary step for the dying art of the mixtape, but the flash flood of attention inevitably caught the eye of major labels, and of course, the RIAA.
By August, the site was shut down by the RIAA, despite ongoing negotiations among founder Justin Ouellette and his accusers.
Official statement from the RIAA:
“For the past several months, we have communicated our legal concerns with the site and repeatedly tried to work with them to have illegal content taken down. Muxtape was hosting copies of copyrighted sound recordings without authorization from the copyright owners. Making these recordings available for streaming playback also requires authorization from the copyright owners. Muxtape has not obtained authorization from our member companies to host or stream copies of their sound recordings.”
In a long-winded rant on his site, Ouellette explained the complicated clampdown, but in short, the Muxtape you (kinda) knew and enjoyed has officially been buried.
He’s launching an utterly useless “exciting” new version of the site now, pimping it as a launching pad for aspiring bands- they’ll get profile pages with all the dangly ornaments: news, downloads, photos, tour updates, etc. Because MySpace doesn’t exist, I guess.
Here’s a snippet from Ouellette’s first performance as a castrato:
“I realize this is a somewhat radical shift in functionality, but Muxtape’s core goals haven’t changed. I still want to challenge the way we experience music online, and I still want to work to enable what I think is the most interesting aspect of interconnected music: discovering new stuff.”
That’s a pretty way of saying I don’t want to get fucked any harder than I already have, so peace out. Muxtape is now going to be an online digital band service outlet. Does that sound appealing to you?
Predictably enough, the unleashed and unchecked pit bulls devoured more than their owner had entirely intended. “I got calls from the marketing departments of big labels whose corporate parents were supposed to be outraged, wanting to know how they get could their latest acts on the home page,” Ouellette said. Interestingly, he added that he “learned… that the RIAA moves quite autonomously from their label parents.”
Streams should not scare anybody. I want the MP3. I want my own copy in my iTunes, not some stream on some other site I have to go to and sift through a bunch of shit to find, and then deal with the buffering and whatever fucked up player the site has. But if it’s quick, painless and to the point, that stream can help spark my interest in the new music you’re pimping, your profit options go up.
Now all you have to do is convince me why I should jump through your stupid little street-team hoops, hop on your mailing list and trust you with my credit card number when I can download the whole album, for free, in a hundred different locations. That means no I don’t want your poster, or your stickers, or to enter a contest to win a signed anything or an awkward meet-and-greet. I just want the music, because that’s all that fucking matters.
You can’t stop progress.