The only way I know how to feel something is to make a mix about it.

One of my favourite things to do as a teenager was to make a mixtape. Self indulgent? Yes. Time consuming? Always. Satisfying? Beyond words. I had mixtapes for everything (and everyone .. including my dog “Shoona”). Now, before I continue, a word of warning: mixtapes are mixtapes. Not ‘mix CD’, ‘playlist’ or even ‘mix tape’. Please. They are WAY more refined. Mixtapes are not a random mix of favourite songs, they live on magnetic tape and are painstakingly created according to nine strict rules:

1) Mixtapes are for others. Actually, they are specifically for one person. One mixtape per person. No duplicates. A mixtape is a very personal thing; you can’t just create a Spotify playlist and share it on your favourite social media site. You must know the person’s musical taste before you begin their mixtape.

2) Mixtapes are musically intelligent. A mixtape is not something you can throw together and hope that it works. A mixtape full of top 40 hits just isn’t a mixtape. If you add One Direction or Beyoncé you have failed. Mixtapes show how musically educated you are. They give the impression you listen to lots and lots of music, frequently visit gigs that are at venues other than O2 or Wembley, and spend your Saturday mornings at the local independent record shop. Use covers, live versions, acoustic versions, orchestral backing etc etc. Anything that makes you seem in the know.

3) Mixtapes have a theme. I don’t mean that all the songs should be Disney songs (necessarily). What I mean is that there should be some kind of musical or thematic glue that subtly holds all of the songs together. Here’s some examples: Songs that have the word “girl” in the title, songs that use hyperbole, songs about summertime, Disney songs by Indie artists, songs containing saxophones, songs about two or more things

4) Mixtapes have an order. Mixtapes tell a story leading the listener from one song to the next in dramatic fashion. One of my favourite films, “High Fidelity” staring John Cusack, traces a record shope owner and the 5 mixtapes he creates over the course of the film. The main character, “Rob Gordon”, at one point says

“The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, ….  then you got to cool it off a notch.”

6) Mixtapes are only as long as they need to be. The worst thing is to make a boring, 16 track mixtape. Don’t overstay your welcome. Don’t feel like you need to fill the tape. The optimum length is 7 songs – 7 songs that complement each other are far better than 20 songs that don’t.

7) Mixtapes NEVER have repeating artists. This is huge. Never, ever, ever have the same artist on the same mixtape. The only reason you can repeat an artist is if your theme requires you to i.e. your theme is “Pairs” – you can then have two tracks featuring the same artist.

8) Mixtapes are mixtapes. Having a good variety of tracks is a really key to success. One depressing track followed by another and another and another is a fail. Mix it up.

9) Mixtapes have a Identity. Give your mixtape a name. My top tips are that you use the person’s name, the theme and add Vol 1 at the end (but really you can be as creative as you like). For example, using the themes from point 3 above:

  • “Patootie Vol 1” (Songs the word “girl” in the title. A patootie is a pretty girl).
  • “Stopping traffic” (songs with hyperbole).
  • “Out Late with John Vol 1” (songs about summertime)
  • “Independently magical Millie Vol 1” (Disney songs by Indie artists)
  • “Bird Songs Vol. 1” (songs containing saxophones) – named after Charlie “Bird” Parker one of the greatest saxophonists of all time.
  • “dRum” – songs about drums or alcohol

So, post your mixtapes in the comments below. Here’s is one to give you some inspiration:

To: My future girlfriend (I hope!)

Theme: Use of hyperbole and love

Title: “Stopping Traffic Vol. 1”


  1. Best Day Of My Life – (Beach Avenue acoustic cover) by American Authors
  2. To The Moon & Back (Extended version) by Savage Garden
  3. I’d Die Without You (Childish Gambino version in the 1Xtra Live Lounge) by PM Dawn
  4. Fast Car (Boyce Avenue feat. Kina Grannis acoustic cover) by Tracy Chapman
  5. Every Breath You Take (Aaron Krause feat. Liza Anne) by The Police
  6. Daughters (Rendition) by SoMo by John Mayer
  7. She Moves in Her Own Way – The Kooks

Here is the mixtape on You Tube: