I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t appreciate a good mix tape. Ok not so much now since the noble tape deck went into serious decline. But a well thought out and decorated mix CD makes for a very acceptable gift if you can’t stretch to a shop bought present.
What makes the mix tape so touching is that it takes so effing long to make. Someone has spent a long time selecting tracks they want you to hear. Maybe getting into a slightly tearful state, figuring out what to do when the song you ABSOLUTELY must hear doesn’t quite fit on the end of the tape. Start all over again? Write down specific listening instructions to turn tape over ASAP for the rest of the song?
This is a waste of time because all the person wants to do is either A) introduce you to better music than the crap you make them listen to in the car or B) astound you with how cool and obscure their music taste is. It is a trade-off. But it is a trade-off of enthusiasms.
Whatever you intend, the mix tape is still an affectionate form of media. A, ‘hey listen to this!’ because I like you/I love this band, let’s share this.
Someone once made me a CD that had a track list detailing how all the songs reminded me of her. Another person covered the CD case in crappy stickers that featured an animal I like to assume was supposed to depict me. Inside the CD was covered in felt tip in a manner that was kind of messy but must have taken some concentration. Someone, on finding out I was very ill sent me a CD wrapped in a photo of us. The decoration is as important as the content.
Which is why just posting a Spotify playlist, or emailing over some mp3s doesn’t have the same kind of buzz (hiss or click) a mix tape had.
When we still lived in the days of mix tapes, I would sometimes record secret messages in the middle, as a kind of test to check the person had really listened to the tape. It’s like Thurston Moore, in his own essay about mix tapes says, “…are you listening, or just hearing? There is a difference, of course”.
I hope you’re listening.