The mixtape is a dying art but 8tracks, initially contributing to the compilation revival through their website, is continuing to bear the brightest torch for the practice. The launch of 8tracks Radio, a mobile version of the website’s (fantastic) concept, furthers the company’s efforts by bringing the joy and discovery inherent in the form to users in the most convenient format yet.
Mixtape enthusiasts started sounding the first panic alarms when CDs hit the mainstream but the rise of affordable rewritable disc technology made compilation-making evolve rather than come to a halt. Digitization, however, has struck a much more tangible blow to mixtape creation, massive MP3 libraries, playlists and shuffle settings providing an easier alternative to careful track selection. In recent years, niche groups of dedicated mixers have begun to lament the end of their pastime, seeing it as a casualty of the drastic changes effecting the music industry on a whole.
8tracks is evidence enough that there may not be cause for concern yet. The website allows users to make an account, select eight tracks and upload them as a virtual mixtape. Connoisseurs have flocked to the service, carefully picking the perfect combination of songs (often grouping them by theme or release date) and making the site a hit in the process. Part of the formula’s success is in how 8tracks lets users be as active or passive in the community as they choose. Enthusiasts can get busy with making their own perfect “tapes” while others can simply visit (with or without an account) and check out featured or recent mixes.
More than just a great way to enjoy online music, 8tracks has also given adventurous listeners a fantastic avenue for discovering new artists. The website makes it simple to select a preferred genre and explore what others are into. It’s easy to step outside of musical comfort zones by perusing the most popular mixes or active users too. Anyone with a (free) membership can “like” compilations or quality mixtape creators in order to build their own archive of songs and have a constant stream of new discoveries on hand from users with tastes similar to their own.
8tracks Radio takes what its parent site has done so well and brings it to mobile listeners. Just like its browser version Radio makes discovering new artists and songs simple by hosting a massive number of digital tapes and user listings. The only drawback to the mobile format is the loss of creation tools — mixers still have to visit 8tracks.com to hone their own compilations — but this omission makes sense, considering the difficulties that would come with offering these features on the small-screen (perhaps we can hope for a seperate, dedicated 8tracks Creator in the future?).
For the present, what is available through 8tracks Radio is still impressive enough that it should appear on every music lover’s radar. The ability to easily find great unknown artists on the go is an invaluable tool that ensures that loving fandom is in no danger of disappearing from the musical landscape in the near future.