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Open Mike: What Is the Difference Between a Mixtape and a Playlist?

By Elizabeth MacLeod | Think Pieces | June 27, 2017 |


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I’m going to start off by saying that while I am an avid music fan and consumer, I am not a hardcore aficionado. I’m young enough to have missed the era of the cassette tape, having grown up on the CD and being part of the first generation to become indoctrinated into the cult of the Apple iPod and iTunes. So I’ve always been a bit puzzled over the passionate proclamations of how the mixtape is the ONE TRUE, RIGHT, AUTHENTIC way to listen to a compilation when to me, they pretty much serve the same function as a collection of songs, chosen with a very heavy indie/alternative slant (no Top 40 here), to evoke a certain theme, feeling, state of mind etc.

To my untrained eye the only major difference is that mixtapes were much more laborious to make, due to the cassette tape medium, and one couldn’t skip forward through a song, or to the next song, or back and forth between songs easily. I deeply respect the mixtape and how it was truly a labor of love to make, but I myself prefer the playlist due to the freedom of being able to skip through the song chronology at my own pace. I know I sound na├»ve asking this, but isn’t it a good thing to be able to listen to music and make music selections more easily?

The joy of listening to and discovering a new artist, band, or song or happily wallowing in the atmosphere evoked by a compilation of songs is still the same no matter how it is collected. It saddens me to hear music snobs treating one medium as a sacred cow while complaining about and lashing out at the whippersnappers who aren’t listening to music the “right” way. People, listening to music is like breastfeeding — there is no wrong way to do it and people shouldn’t be criticized for doing it the way they prefer.


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