How to Release a Mixtape
You fancy yourself to be a skilled lyricist, and now it’s time to start showing those skills off to the world. A mixtape is the perfect way to do just that. Mixtapes are low-budget, high-impact releases that build hype and spread the word about you as an artist. They are talent showcases, and a well-conceived mixtape can open a lot of doors. Making a successful mixtape isn’t about the money that you throw at it, it’s about the dedication and talent you put into it. A good DJ doesn’t hurt either.
Recording the Tracks
Come up with a concept.The best mixtapes have a theme or concept that runs throughout, including the cover art. If your mixtape has direction, as opposed to being a collection of random tracks, your listeners will get more out of it.
Strike a balance between old and new.A mixtape is supposed to build hype and word-of-mouth for you, so you want to ensure that your fans will hear something new. At the same time, you don't want to give away all of your new material for free.
- Avoid reusing songs that you’ve already used on a previous mixtape. This will strike dedicated listeners as lazy. The only time you should be re-releasing songs is if you’ve done a significant remix.
Find some beats.If you aren’t comfortable making your own beats, or don’t have anyone who can help you with it, there are thousands upon thousands of beats available online. Anything from instrumental versions of your favorite songs to commissioned tracks from up-and-coming internet producers. The options are nearly limitless.
Keep your sampling in check.While it's pretty popular to record over another musician's track, not everyone wants to hear the same tired beats over and over. Try to keep things original. Your audience will appreciate your talent even more as a side-effect.
- There's still plenty of room for rapping over someone else's beats. Artists like Drake and Lil Wayne have shown that smart sampling and lyrical skill can propel you to incredible heights. The key is to let your skills shine over the sample, or to use it in a unique or inspiring way.
- Since you're not making any money off of your mixtape, you usually don't have to worry about copyright issues. Just make sure that you're not using the same overplayed sounds that everyone else is using.
- Since a mixtape isn't released commercially, it can be your chance to use samples that would never clear for an album. The Beatles, James Brown, Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, and many other artists are notoriously difficult to get sample clearance from, but feel free to drop them on your mixtape.
Find a producer or DJ friend to make some beats.If you want to really sound professional, have a DJ/Producer friend cook up some tracks for you to rap over. Not only does it give you exposure and unique beats, it gives the DJ exposure as well. Who knows, you may even find a musical partner.
Get some good production equipment.Make sure you have a good microphone and some decent mixing software or hardware. A basic setup won't set you back too much and can do wonders for your sound.
Commission or create some cover art.A good mixtape needs some striking art on the cover. If all else fails, a shot of yourself will suffice and work to solidify your brand. While you might think your mixtape is all about the music, many people pick up mixtapes based solely on the cover art. Make sure yours is striking!
- Avoid plastering your cover with logos and URLs. Stick your website and contact information in the liner.
Getting DJ Play
Get friendly with local DJs.DJs control the music scene. They decide what sounds good and what will appeal to their listeners. You want to get your mixtape into the hands of as many DJs as possible, whether they’re on the radio or spinning at the local club. If a DJ decides you song is hot, you’ll reach way more ears.
- Many club DJs offer pay-for-play services. Find your local DJs’ promotional contact information and ask them about rates and services for hosting your song.
- A mixtape technically isn’t a mixtape unless a DJ has mixed your tracks together. A partnership with a professional DJ will go a long way towards legitimizing your mixtape.
Have a DJ host your mixtape.Many DJs and promotion companies allow you to pay to have your mixtape hosted by them. Oftentimes this can include having professional DJs mix your tracks and adding drops. Hosting can include promotion help and some serious airtime. Hosting can get a little pricey, but there are lots of options out there.
- Viral Mixtapes is a popular online mixtape host that does a lot of social network promotion for hosted tapes.
- DJ Noize is a popular hosting DJ, and prices can be negotiated to cover a variety of promotional services.
- Coast2Coast Mixtapes is another popular online host, and boasts a very large audience.
Promoting Your Mixtape
Do some club promotion.Hit the streets and start spreading the word at clubs around your town. Post flyers and get people talking. Make sure you have a handful of tapes (or CDs, USB drives, QR codes, etc.) to give out to anyone who looks remotely interested.
Post on social networks.You should be blasting all your available social media leading up to and immediately after the release of your mixtape. If people like what they hear, they’ll be sharing it with their friends, increasing your audience and name recognition. Social media is certainly not the only promotion you should be doing, but it’s very important these days.
Post tracks on Soundcloud and BandCamp.These two online services have large numbers of dedicated listeners, and shouldn’t be overlooked when promoting your mixtape. If you don’t have an account, set one up and upload a few tracks off the tape. The goal of these services is to whet the audience’s appetite. Give them a free track or two, and link to your mixtape or albums.
Get some media coverage.Send out a press release to every music blog, magazine, and alternative publication you can think of. Drumming up press support can have a big impact on your audience. A good write-up in the local music rag can dramatically increase your presence.
- Contact the local college station and try to get an interview on whatever program relates the most to your music. Even if it's at 2 AM, that's better than no airtime.
Make a video.If you really want to make a splash with your tape, make a music video for the hottest single on your tape. The mixtape/video combination can do wonders for increasing the word about you, and YouTube can be a real gateway to getting noticed.
- The video doesn’t have to be high-budget. With some good directing and a decent camera, your video can look as professional as some of the most famous videos you’ve seen.
Get to work on your next mixtape.The world of music doesn’t stop, and it’s rare that one mixtape will make you the next Lil Wayne. Dedicated rappers release multiple mixtapes a year, as consistent releases are the only sure-fire way to increase your audience.
QuestionHow do I put my cover art to my mix tape so when I click play, my photo will appear?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPut all your tracks and the playlist in a folder. Open Windows Media Player and minimize it. Find the photo you'd like to use, right-click, and select "copy." Return to Windows Media Player and right-click on your folder, you will see the option "paste cover."Thanks!
QuestionHow do I put my cover art to my mixtape?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerCreate covers using paper that will fit inside your tape holder. You may print images on paper or draw them yourself by hand.Thanks!
QuestionCan a mix tape have just 5 tracks?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, if they are all quality tracks, less is more. Don't put too much filler into your mix tape, sometimes it's better to have fewer tracks.Thanks!
How do I create a link to my music?
How do I post my mix tapes on Soundcloud?
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