The Renaissance of the Mixtape: from the Old School to the New Digital Era

The Renaissance of the Mixtape: from the Old School to the New Digital Era

Is the digital mixtape the analog solution to a new era?




With Adele’s recent success still playing out in the mainstream media, the music industry is in the spotlight again as it seeks to search for its new blueprint. The success of 25 has shaken the business to its core as executives struggle to find the new standard for distributing music to the masses. One of the questions being posed currently is which formula will be the one that becomes the norm? The answer may be that there will be no one standard.

There may be several.






Similar to the days when 8-tracks, tapes, and CDs co-existed side by side, we now live in a digital world where other options are currently on the table. While the big names continue to get physical, one old-school maneuver once favored by the independent artist is set for a massive upgrade.

The mixtape, once relegated to being sold by indie artists in parking lots and car trunks, has made leaps and bounds to become possibly the next big thing in music distribution. The new status, this time around, is not only relegated to the indie artist either. As Miley Cyrus’ Dead Petz underground mixtape release made abundantly clear: a lot of noise can be orchestrated through the digital mixtape.




Further proof of the growing importance of the digital mixtape comes via Apple, which recently began researching ways to bring the concept of the mixtape to the masses. Currently, the media giant is formulating ways to enable the mere mortal to make personalized mixtapes that can be uploaded to a cloud-based music service.

Before Dead Petz impacted through Soundcloud, Drake created sonic hysteria of his own with the release of his debut album five years ago, Thank Me Later, which topped Billboard and forced studio heads to emulate the formula for other artists.

For artists, the digital mixtape has become a way to stay more connected with their fans and free them from the constraints of a label’s stipulations. For music companies, it helps them build the brand of their stable of artists using only limited amounts of funds. Drake is not alone, either. Other mainstream artists have incorporated the digital mixtape into their repertoire, including current sensation The Weeknd, Big Sean, J. Cole, and more. But make no mistake that today’s mixtape still needs further definition. For many, digital mixtapes are just as much a real album as anything released through a major music company.




Welcome to the new digital mixtape: not your mother’s mixtape for sure, but now a definitive never-ending commercial that is helping to usher forth a new crop of musical stars attempting to break through to the other side commercially.









Triston Brewer (@Triston212) is a performance artist, journalist, and activist. He has been published in The Huffington Post and featured in publications such as the New York Times, Vogue Italia, to name a few. His memoir about living overseas, Heaux Confessionals: The Sintroduction, is available on Amazon.