You spend months, even years, recording material for your mixtape – don’t throw it all away with poor planning and rookie mistakes. This article mostly applies to artist mixtapes, not DJ compilations. But DJs can take some advice from this as well. Make sure to leave your opinions and additional suggestions in the comments and/or Tweet me: @MsRivercity.
- No DJ – Not wanting to wait on a DJ, lack of budget, or lack of connections are no excuse for omitting a DJ’s assistance. A recognizable DJ will open ears that otherwise wouldn’t check out an unknown or disliked artist. Personally I will listen to a DJ Drama/Scream/Smallz tape before a DJ-less tape. Plus technically, it’s not a mixtape without a DJ; it’s an album. Calling it a mixtape without finding a DJ makes the artist look lazy, and broke. The DJ may also be able to assist with promotion, which is arguably more important than the music itself. A talented and experienced professional can also arrange your hard work into a cohesive, organized sounded project. Proper mixing will also earn you some points. The music industry can tell the difference, even if you can’t. If you want to give fans the music without drops, tags, etc., pick a couple of the best tracks as single releases. Use the fans as a guide, they’ll ask for what they want.
- Too Much DJ – On the flipside, a DJ shouting all over the songs will ruin a listening experience quick. The wrong DJ drops will sound like your girlfriend’s yapping while you’re playing video games. Go with a DJ who will enhance your music and image, not try to steal the shine. Sometimes the most expensive/popular DJ isn’t always the best. Do your research. Read forums; read comments on your favorite mixtape hosting sites; search the DJs name on Twitter; ask other people who have used the DJ about the quality. Also, it helps to use a DJ who’s taste matches your style of music. Rather to do some pre-planning than after-regretting.
- Too Many Songs – A standard CD is 80 minutes so if the tape is any longer you risk duplication problems. Unfortunately there are some people left on earth who prefer physical discs. Not to mention nobody is going to give a new artist 30 chances to impress, you must catch listeners attention during the first few songs, sometimes the first 30 seconds of the tape. Remember the competition is HUGE. Plus we don’t want to hear every record you’ve ever made. Not even if you’re Gucci Mane, Lil Wayne, or Nas. If your project goes over about 15 songs, give or take a couple, it becomes redundant. Somewhere in there is filler material we don’t want to hear. George Forman has made a fortune keeping the flavor while trimming the fat – you should try it. Even if your homeboys and cousins were vibing to every song in the studio, you know in your heart nobody cranks out 42 bangers in one session. Let go of the garbage and give us your best.
- Old Songs – Even if you think nobody has heard the song, or people haven’t heard it enough, if a song appeared on a prior mixtape, especially over 6 months ago, it’s a no-no to reuse it unless you remix it. Reusing the song will make you look amateur and the internet comment gangsters will eat you alive. It will also make you seem incompetent when it comes to producing new material. Don’t be afraid of wasting the material because you think it hasn’t seen enough light. Your fans will do their research when you get big enough, and if the material is truly good, it will surface on its on. Future is a perfect example of this – he had several mixtapes and songs floating around before he popped off. Once his buzz took off, people found his old material on their own.
- Old Beats – If every major artist has remixed the song using the beat already, leave it alone. It’s too old. If it’s a current number one radio hit, leave it alone. We’ve heard it too many times already. And your mixtape will become dated, making it irrelevant in the future. And please don’t butcher a Biggie beat with your practice lyrics – just because we love his music doesn’t mean we’ll love you if you hop on his beat. You have to get your status up first, way up.
- No Promotion – Why spend all your time and money in the studio making a mixtape and invest nothing in the marketing and promotion? A good rule of thumb is to spend as much on the back end putting out your product as you spent creating it. Cross promoting with other companies/artists is a good way to make up the difference if your funds are low. Just remember cross-promotion should always be a win-win situation. Don’t ever ask for free promotion – you’ll piss people off, look cheap, and land your mixtape in the trash.
- Unprofessional Graphics – The truth hurts and you may not want to hear this, but most times a mixtape’s cover is more important than the music itself. It’s all about appearance in this game. People are subconsciously thinking: if you can’t catch my eye, you can’t catch my ear. Don’t kill your chances by looking bummy. Clean up your graphics. And for Christ’s sake don’t attempt to make your own design. Ever.
- Unrealistic Expectations – One mixtape won’t make or break you. Overall consistency wins. I can’t tell you anyone who got famous off one attempt. Everyone must invest, and improve.