Artwork is another way to make a really special mixtape. Lindgren is particularly known for drawing on her mix CDs and their sleeves. “I just go for it” with Sharpies, she says. That’s not an option when making playlists on most music services—though that’s bound to change as mixtapes get left farther and farther behind.
Or will they? Vinyl is surging, after all, and cassettes are currently holding their own as a niche format for superfans. Just this year, in fact, the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival teased its lineup with a special mixtape sent to early-bird ticket buyers.
But before long that tape was digitized, and a SoundCloud post of the tape, created by local fan and Growler contributor Kyle Matteson, was shared far and wide by people who didn’t have the tape—or who did, but lacked players. Once again, the convenience of streaming won.
Convenience aside, there’s no denying the lasting appeal of a physical, art-covered tape or CD.
I still have a lot of my and my dad’s old mixtapes, creations with titles like “Jesse’s Cool College Tapes,” and “The BEST Music You’ve NEVER Heard”—even a tape Dad made for our parish priest titled, “Father Jerry’s Music Jubilee.” Each tape captures a moment in time. More than just serving as a memento, though, there’s a call to action to mixtapes.
“When you hand someone something, there is an urgency to listen to it,” Cudmore, author of the murder mystery, says. “I need to put this in my car CD player; I need to go home and listen to this right now. Those songs get inside you, and you can’t stop thinking about them.”
Though the stakes aren’t quite as high as they are in Cudmore’s fictional murder investigation, it’s that air of mystery and intimacy that still appeals to people who participate in the Dead Media tape exchange, and mixtape exchanges of their own.
“A tape is something exclusive,” Brooks says. “You’re the only one that has one, or maybe you and a couple of friends. You can hold it, look at the art, pass it around to people. There’s a lot of power in that.”
Editor’s note: This article was produced as a part of a collaboration between The Growler Magazine and 89.3 The Current, Minnesota’s non-commercial, member-supported radio station playing the best authentic, new music alongside the music that inspired it. Find this article and more great music content at thecurrent.org.
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