Mix cd swapping is goooooooooooood!

By Jon Newton 2/04/03

The New York Times has a story on it.

Which means even if it isn't all that new, it's gotta be bad ; ) And it's gotta be 'official'.

Homemade CD music compilations, that is.

Mix-CD swapping.

The Creative MuVo is available in 64MB and 128MB versions on Amazon.

But You already knew that, didn't you. heh

Almost a year ago - March 2002, to be exact - this appeared on gtabloggers:

"Burn Baby Burn
Chris and Max have organized the first round of cd swapping for bloggers. The premise is that you send out five mixed cds and you will receive five back in return. Of course receiving 5 mixed cds in the mail sounds like a grand idea so I signed myself up. I have to wonder though if the five that I send out, have to be the same, or can I send out five different mixed cds. Strangely though, since I got my new computer, with a cd burner, I haven't burned all that much. Although I should get into a habit of burning a mix cd a week, that would be awesome. A great way to meet new people and discover new music."

And on March 20 rannie posted, "gah! mix cd swapping is goooooooooooood!"

It is indeed goooooooooooood and getting gooder. And as time goes on, it'll create more anguish for the record labels, already suffering serious financial pain caused by various new audio manifestations they haven't been able to buy up or tie up in court.

In his Rip Now, Pay Later?, Macworld's Mathew Honan asks, "Is your ability to create your own CDs going the way of file swapping on Napster? And more important, if you're already making your own CDs, are you doing anything wrong?"

He goes on, "The answer to the first question, at least, is an unequivocal no. Although Apple has declined to comment on the future direction of any of its products, including iTunes, Roxio says that it's not about to take away a user's ability to burn audio CDs from MP3 files.

So, Matt says, if you want to take all your Radiohead albums, rip selected tracks from each and burn a mix CD for your own use, go for it. But when you do it for someone else, or create a CD from downloaded music, things get tricky.

"If you were to pass your Radiohead mix CD along to a friend, fair use becomes debatable," he says. "If listening to a track on that mix CD inspires the friend to run right out and buy a copy of Amnesiac, then you might have a case for it being a fair use of the material, according to the EFF.

"Not so fast, the RIAA counters; that Radiohead CD is legal only if you also hand over to your friend all the legally purchased Radiohead CDs you used to burn it."


"The RIAA's position is unambiguous: making a mixed CD of music you own and then giving that CD to someone who does not own that music violates copyright law."

We'll get to the Noo Yok Times story, written by David Gallagher and Entitled For the Mix Tape, a Digital Upgrade and Notoriety, in a minute.

Before we do, on his own site Dave says the article's about the culture of mix CDs, the people who make and swap them and the people who want to wipe them out.

"When I was interviewing people for this story, almost everyone mentioned 'High Fidelity,' Nick Hornby's ode to mix tapes and romantic confusion," he continues. "Mr. Hornby was kind enough to answer some of my questions about mix CDs by e-mail, but his comments didn't make it into the final story, which ended up focusing more on swapping. I've asked him if I can post his comments here. Stay tuned.

"Mr. Hornby's latest project is 'Songbook,' published by McSweeney's Books. It's a collection of little essays on 31 pop songs. The cover is meant to look like a beat-up old mix tape, but in the back is a CD with 11 of the songs discussed in the book. I wish the eclecticism of the essays had carried over onto the CD, which is too consistently Starbucks-ish, but overall it's a very fun package. Proceeds go to the favorite charities of Mr. Hornby and Mr. Eggers."

OK. So on to Mix Tape, a Digital Upgrade and Notoriety which I'm reproducing in full below because it's a good piece and deserves it. [Hope the Nieu Yak Times doesn't sue me : ]

Three or four times a week, Joshua Bernard opens his mailbox and finds a package sent to him by someone he has never met," it kicks off. "Inside are homemade CD compilations of music that he often knows little about. The discs have featured big bands, death metal and even some Hawaiian music. The ukuleles did not scare him off.

""You know, it was great," said Mr. Bernard, a Web designer who lives near Boston. "I'm not going out to get the entire Don Ho box set or anything, but it was a refreshing exposure to music that I wouldn't necessarily go out and look for."

That kind of personal introduction to new sounds is a big part of the appeal of mix-CD swapping, an increasingly popular hobby that has spawned an online subculture. Mr. Bernard is the organizer of a typical group of swappers. It has 13 active members who are each assigned a month in which they are to send a mix to the rest of the group. The result is something like file sharing meets pirate radio, transmitted by the Postal Service.

Homemade mixes have long been a part of pop music culture. For many music fans past their college years, the mere sight of a mix on cassette tape can be enough to bring back memories of old crushes and road trips. But now the cassette is on its deathbed, CD burners are standard equipment on many PC's and hard drives are loaded with digital music files ready for burning. This may be the golden age of the mix CD.

Of course, this is also the golden age of copyright infringement, and the music industry is using technological and legal measures to crack down on piracy. The industry views most forms of copying as theft, and it sees little difference between making a mix CD for a friend and copying an entire album to sell on the street.

Frank Creighton, who directs antipiracy efforts for the Recording Industry Association of America, said that money did not have to be involved for copying to be illegal. While mixes on cassette tapes may not have inspired the wrath of the record industry in the past, Mr. Creighton said, digital mixes have better sound quality. And given the proliferation of CD burning for friends and relatives, "it would be na´ve of us to say that we should allow that type of activity," he said.

Mix makers counter that they are not hurting the music industry and are perhaps even doing it a favor by helping lesser-known artists get heard. Some fear that in its zeal to stop piracy, the industry could take away freedoms that music buyers have enjoyed for years, possibly hurting itself in the process.

'The mix CD is really a great promotional opportunity for bands that aren't going to be on the radio,' said Fred von Lohmann, a staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, which campaigns against limits on digital technologies. Mr. von Lohmann, who is a member of two mix- swapping groups, said he recently bought a CD by a band called the Donnas and found that the disc's copy protection prevented him from playing it on his computer. That meant he was unable to put the band's music on a mix.

But most CD's are not copy-protected, so it is easy to 'rip' songs from them and turn them into digital files. Online file-sharing services like KaZaA make millions of legal and illegal copies of songs available, but mix makers say they generally stick to music they have purchased or downloaded legally.

Burning a mix CD involves arranging a playlist of songs in a program like Apple's iTunes, loading a blank disc and clicking on a button, a process that is far easier and faster than making a mix tape.

One member of Mr. Bernard's group, George Perry of Toronto, went the extra mile on a recent mix and digitized two songs from bands that he only had on vinyl. In the middle he threw in an odd message someone left on his answering machine.

'The people on the CD trading group are technically strangers, in that I have never met them,' Mr. Perry said. "But after sharing mixed CD's with them, I kind of feel that I know them.''

Mr. Bernard's latest mix kicks off with a few tracks of 'good aggressive driving music' from bands like Candlebox, segues into some electronic tracks and wraps up with "the Toadies' last song off of their breakup album, a perfect farewell."

And Oh Yeh ! On his web page Dave says: "I've been thinking about this story for several months and accumulated a lot of related bookmarks in the process. I'm dumping them here for your exploration. The list kicks off with some of the sites mentioned in the story."

Here's his list. Have fun. And thanks a lot, Dave.

-- Crabwalk.com: CD Mix of the Month Club
-- Yahoo! Groups : CD_Trading
-- The Art of the Mix - Making Mix Tapes, Mixed CDs and MP3 Playlists
-- Copyfight: Should Non-Commercial File Sharing Be Illegal?
-- Glorious Noise - Wedding Mixes
-- WeddingCDs.com - make a custom CD for your wedding
-- Metafilter | mix CDs and tapes
-- Washington Post on the death of cassettes
-- Lonely Regicide : A MeFiSwap mix
-- Raspberry World - Music - My CD Mixes
-- Metafilter Swap II
-- The Ataris: Song for a Mix Tape
-- The Automatic Mix Tape Generator
-- Harvard Law School News: Q&A with Jonathan Zittrain on music
-- EFF Copyright and Fair Use FAQ: Sharing Music
-- Macworld: Rip. Mix. Burn. Steal?
-- halfass.com: Comment on The Neglected Mixtape
-- You are talking too loud - Making mixes
-- US Code, TITLE 17 , CHAPTER 1 , Sec. 107. - fair use
-- ZDNet: RIAA response--you're dead wrong

If you have any thoughts on this, email us here.

Jon Newton is the editor of p2pnet.net and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.

Other MP3 Stories:
The MP3 Losers of 2002
The MP3 Winners of 2002

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