Old Age Hipster has a great piece where Deep Elm records’ owner John Szuch lists his secrets for making the perfect mixtape. The significance of this is twofold. In the mid-90s Deep Elm was one of a handful of indie labels that specialized in – and in the case of Deep Elm’s Emo Diaries series, capitalized upon – the growing emo scene.
The other significant part of this piece is the fact that here, an owner of a record label, is giving pointers on making a great mixtape. Considering the controversial history that mixtapes have had in the record industry, Deep Elm certainly deserves a good chunk of credit for actively producing this kind of writing/information for the masses, showing that they have a passion in music first and foremost. For before the onset of Napster and digital downloading, cassette tapes were seen as a major threat to the record industry, with major labels waging a war that was eventually forgotten with the creation and popularity of CD technology. But, the point being, that the medium of cassette tapes and the democratizing aspect of easy-recording was seen as a threat to the record industry, right down to the individuals who religiously created mixtapes for friends and loved ones. And yet, here is Szuch, decades after the cassette tape debacles, dishing out advice on how to craft the perfect mix. It shows that, above all, a passion for music should be behind those who are producing such an artistic medium.
What may be most riveting out of all of this is that the mixtape has continued to survive in the mainstream lexicon. Cassette tapes may be dead and not even a distant memory to most listeners, but the medium lives on in our language.