The Art of the Mixtape. In this new music era mixtapes are a huge part of the hip-hop and r&b genre. Recently, I’ve seen and heard a lot of questions posed about mixtapes through word of mouth, blogs and social networking platforms. Questions like what’s the difference between an album and mixtape? And, why do rappers release mixtapes? The truth is there is no one reason but these days as far as the fan is concerned most albums are basically free albums.
Here’s my quick A-Z Breakdown. In the old days, a mixtape was a DJ mix where DJs would not only showcase their work, but also break new records and they often re-mixed songs and mix matched popular vocals to beats from other popular current hits.
Fast-forward to todays fast pace consumers demand market. In order to understand the mixtape you have to understand the recording process. To mass-produce, distribute and market an album on a national, let alone a worldwide level, it takes a boatload of money. Someone has to foot the bill. Before a label, distributor, sponsor or investor puts up this kind of money; they need to believe on paper they will see a return in their investment.
Just because an artist is signed to a label, it doesn’t mean the label will release their record to the public. In fact most artists signed to a label will never see a release date. What an artist has to do is work hard, work overtime. They need to build a buzz, build a fan base and prove to the label that they are worth the investment. In many cases the free mixtapes is a good start.
Next is the process of recording. Artists signed to a label are under an extreme amount of pressure to record songs that impress the label executive, A&Rs, DJs, radio stations and etc. All this while trying to stay true to their art and maintain some sense of artist integrity. For that 14-track album that was released an artist may have recording 50 to 100 songs. For example Michael Jackson admitted to recording 300 songs for the Invincible album alone. Of course Mr. Jackson was way to large of an icon to waste his time on mixtapes but you get the point.
Also when purchasing production from music producers, it could get expensive paying for that much production so producers sell beats in two ways. They lease the beat to an artist for little to no money. This means the producer still owns the beat and the artist is just borrowing it. Then if the artist wants to release the beat then the artist pays for the beat to be exclusive and gives points of his album for future revenue. Beats may also contain samples that need copyright clearance. Well, a free mixtape needs no clearance.
What do you do with all those songs that you have recorded that are not going to be on the album? You give it away to the fans on a mixtape. This helps you build a buzz before your album drops as well as keeps an artist relevant in-between albums. You don’t have to pay out money for those exclusive beats, clear samples or in many cases get approval from the label.
These are just a few reasons why an artist values the right to release mixtapes or what I like to call free albums to public.
by Marcus Clark @SoSoActive