To start the new year, UO has curated some of our favorite tracks from a year of Music Monday posts and compiled them all for an exclusive mixtape we'll be giving away on the @UrbanOutfittersMens Instagram. Winners will receive one of 50 tapes packed full of tracks from our favorite emerging artists, along with a bunch of other goodies. Keep reading for a look at the resurgence of cassette culture, the history of the mixtape, and more details on how to win our exclusive mix.
A mixtape, by definition, is a compilation of favorite pieces of music, typically by different artists, recorded onto a cassette tape or other medium by an individual. The modern day mixtape is a playlist on your computer—you pick a bunch of song files you like and drag them into a playlist. Zip it, send it, and share it. Quick and easy. This wasn’t always the case, though.
Back in the 90s, which feels like ancient history to most of us, mixtapes used to take time and effort, and would naturally require more emotion to go into your choices. Sitting around the stereo waiting for your favorite songs to play on the radio while your finger rested on the record button—missing the first few seconds of a song was a no-no. It defeated the purpose. If you owned the cassette, CD, or record with a particular song you wanted to include on the mix, you could record directly onto a second cassette, but it wasn’t instantaneous. You needed to let the song play through and be there to stop it when it ended to ensure a smooth listening experience. Even if that sounds easy, your mixtape needed a lot of thought. The curated tracks must fit together, flow from beginning to end, and they form some kinds of statement or mood. A mixtape, after all, is a romantic form of communication...the most iconic thing you could do was gift them to a crush to let them know you existed.
Cassettes started diminishing as CDs took over and then were rendered obsolete by digital music. However, much like the vinyl resurgence in the last decade, cassettes are starting to phoenix their way out of the rubble. Like vinyl, cassettes are tangible music mediums that have their own unique qualities. They offer a warm and full sound, often accompanied by that soothing “hiss” they are known for. As you listen to a cassette tape, the tape starts to slowly wear down, creating degradation in the audio quality, much like wearing in your favorite pair of sneakers.
Another sign showing rebirth of the cassette is Cassette Store Day. Much like Record Store Day, it is an international event started in 2013 to recognize the cassette as a format for music. More record labels are starting to turn on to the trend as well, making it commonplace now to see an act offering vinyl alongside cassettes at their shows. Included in the growing list of labels is Burger Records, which UO Omaha recently teamed up with Burger to create the in-store “Casigarette Machine,” where you drop in $5 into a refurbished cigarette machine and a cassette is dispensed to you.