You have to give credit where credit is due. These mixtape services are resilient. In its futile effort to stuff the cat back in the bag, the RIAA keeps shutting them down. And like weeds, they pop right back up.
The latest mixtape service to cross my radar is MixTape.me. Let me tell you- I have made a mixtape or two in my day. I remember sitting by the FM radio for hours with my Maxell cassette tape ready to go. I’d record the start of every song, and if it was one I didn’t want (as were most of them), I’d just rewind and wait for the next song. It took forever, but I created some awesome mixes. My mixtape glory years were from 1982 to 1985, courtesy of Vanderbilt’s WRVU. I taped Webb Wilder, the Beat Farmers, Raging Fire, Love Tractor, the dBs, you name it. Later, when I had enough money to actually buy tapes and CDs, I made a few mixtapes for the girls of the moment. Hey, it could have been worse. It could have been poetry. Well, come to think of it, I might have done that too, but let’s not talk about that.
So, given my illustrious mixtape history, I decided to give MixTape.me a spin.
And since I am a fan of Blip.fm, a similar- though not identical- service, I think I’ll compare the two.
Registration is as easy as it can be. This is all there is to it.
Fill in the blanks, type the captcha (note the refresh and speaker buttons, to help you through the process), and you’re done. Once you login, you’re presented with a simple black and gray interface. It’s refreshingly uncluttered.
The gray column includes your library of saved songs, two pre-set playlists: popular songs and recently played songs. These pre-set playlists show the day’s most popular songs and songs that were recently played by MixTape.me users. Today’s most popular song was Flashdance. Flashdance!? Jeezus.
Below those are your playlists. You can see that I have created two so far.
To add songs to your library and/or a playlist, you search via a search box at the top right of the screen.
When you get results, you can drag songs into your library or a playlist.
The search process is fast, but I noticed that a lot of songs appearing in the search results are not actually available. If you click on a song that’s not available, the player will first look for another copy of that song in the database (good) and, if one isn’t available, play the next available song in the list (bad). Because the next available song is most likely a different song, I don’t like that feature. Like Blip.fm, you can add the URL of a specific MP3 to add it to your mix. This feature is not readily apparent, however- click in the +MP3 button at the top right of the song list window (the one just below) to add the URL.
Once you’ve added the songs to your playlist, click on it, and the song list appears.
From this screen, you can rearrange songs, edit the artist and title information, get information about the song or buy the song via a handy link to Amazon. In a neat design feature, the link leads to the Amazon download page, if one exists, as opposed to the CD page.
MixTape.me has two features that Blip.fm lacks. You can easily rearrange the order of your songs, and you can add songs to your library to store until you decide to add them to a playlist. On the other hand, there are not as many songs in the MixTape.me database, but it’s still in beta so more songs will likely be added over time. I also noted that MixTape uses music search engine SeeqPod. SeeqPod is being sued by Warner Music, so there is at least some question as to the longevity of at least that part of the search function. For all I know, Blip.fm may use SeeqPod too.
Once you create your mix, you are undoubtedly anxious to share it with your friends, love interest, dog, etc. There are two ways to do this. Via a link (handy for email) and by embedding the playlist on your site. Here’s one of my playlists (the first song is dedicated to all those cats on Twitter with arrogant Fg/Fs ratios):
Tell me that Jean Knight song doesn’t rock! People who’ve known me for a long time have told me the fourth song reminds them of me. That used to irritate me, but the older I get the more I kind of like the thought. I ain’t asking nobody for nothin’, and all that.
MixTape.me’s embedded player is more functionally and aesthetically pleasing than Blip.fm’s.
I’ve been a Blip.fm user for a few weeks, and have really enjoyed it. One of the its best features is neat integration with Twitter, which let’s you automatically post songs to Twitter as you “blip” or add them. Lots of people blip songs into Twitter regularly. Of course song blips get in the way of all the rampant self-promotion that has become the main course on Twitter, so some people don’t like it.
Like MixTape.me, Blip.fm makes registration a breeze.
Fill out two blanks, click and presto, you have your very own Blip.fm page to fill with great music.
To add a song, you search for it in the search box.
You can preview the songs, and you should because some of them will be unavailable- though I find the frequency to be less than at MixTape.me. I find the searching and adding process on Blip.fm to be better that at MixTape.me, but not by a great margin. There are also more songs to be found in the Blip.fm database, though as noted above, MixTape.me is new and its database will likely grow.
Once you find a song you like, you can “blip” it or add it to your song list, with a witty comment.
Click OK, and the song gets added to your page, to the Blip.fm front page, and, if you so-configure your account, to Twitter.
If you have your account configured to post to Twitter automatically, you can add an exclamation point (!) to the beginning of the message, and that particular song will not be posted to Twitter.
You can also give other Blip.fm users (and receive from them) “props” by clicking a little thumbs up button below a song you particularly like. Props are calculated and your number of props appears at the right hand side of your Blip.fm page.
As noted above, there is no way to rearrange the songs in your song list, though you can delete songs. It would also be nice to have a place to hold songs you want to “blip” later- sort of like MixTape.me’s Library. The sharing features are not as robust on Blip.fm either. The primary methods of sharing are to share the link for your Blip.fm page and to post your “blips” to Twitter. There is a third party Facebook app, but it didn’t work for me. There is a widget you can embed on your site, but the gigantic Blip.fm logo is too much of a space eater. My inquiry about that went unanswered. Not a wise practice, particularly when the question comes from someone using and writing about your service.
You can, however, embed individual songs.
That is one sad and beautiful song.
I think both services have a lot to offer. At the moment, if I could only use one, it would be Blip.fm, because I think the interface is more mature and elegant, but if MixTape.me grows its database and reduces the number of unavailable songs in its search results, its superior arranging and sharing capabilities would give it an edge.
Both are reasonably well designed and fun. And that’s good for everybody.
Now, if they can just stay in business.