If you’re not an 8tracks fan yet, get in the game! It’s an online radio website that allows users to create their own music mixes, as well as listen to mixes others have made. It’s genuinely awesome, so you should really check it out if you haven’t already.
Anyway. In this post, I will share my personal experiences with you as well as a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned after making two hundred something mixes and navigating through the online radio universe. Of course, everyone is different in their approach to mixing. I’ll just be showing you the system I came up with (or rather, the habits I’ve developed…) when it comes to organizing and arranging a radio mix on 8tracks.
Drum-roll please! Drum drum drum drum drum drum drum drum drum~~
1. Where do I begin: generating ideas for mix
There are lots of places where you can get your inspiration or incentive to make a mix. Some mixes of mine are purely functional, such as a few study mixes designed for long hours of study, or upbeat tracks grouped together to pump up a boring workout routine. Normally though, I usually start with a particular track that calls for a musical narrative, or for more of its kin. I create a playlist using iTunes’ playlist function, and give a temporary, tentative title that somewhat describes the overall mood, genre, and/or “musical direction” that the potential mix may have. For example, “dark gothic instrumental” or “happy classical orchestral”. I then add and collect more tracks to the playlist with similar tones, and generally aim for a mix that is slightly more than an hour long. I used to make shorter mixes ranging from 40-50 minutes, but since most of my mixes are instrumental study mixes, I decided an hour-ish is a good length to mark a normal study period or work session.
2. Where do I go from there: structuring and organizing your mix
After you have assembled your tracks, it’s time to arrange them. There should be some kind of logical, musical flow in the ordering of your tracks. Group similar sounds and instruments together, create a progression for your mix. For example, you may want to start with piano solos, then gradually build your way up to more complicated chord structures and multi-instrumental sounds, crescendo and outro/fade out. This all completely depends on how you envision your mix, so do what feels right!
Secondly, treat the first track as your “introduction” and the “attention hook”. Just like writing an essay, you want people to keep reading/listening to what you have created. It should ease your listener’s way into your mix, generate interest, and set the tone. Personally, I don’t like my first track to be overpowering or overwhelming; to me it will sound random and out of place. That is why I choose a softer track that serves as a gentle, friendly wave that invites people to listen more. The first three tracks are very important, because that is often all 8trackers have patience for (or maybe it’s just me? I’m only speculating). Some people don’t listen past the first track, and sometimes they skip tracks. Therefore, put your best tracks up front so people will fall in love with it more easily!
After you’re done, listen to it from start to finish to make sure you’re getting the vibes and transition right. If you’re making a super long mix (e.g. more than 2 hours), fast forward to the end of your mix and listen to the way it transitions to the next track. I let my gut tell me if it sounds and feels right–and I always double-check my transitions to see if anything sounds weird or awkward. Sometimes, there might be one track that you really want to include as part of your mix, but your better judgement tells you that it stands out too much from the mix or doesn’t fit the bigger picture. Most of the time, it is better to take it out and save it for another mix so that track won’t disturb the musical flow.
3. Time to package it: choosing mix covers
The mix cover can be a photograph, a piece of artwork, or a meme. The most important thing you need to take note of is probably technical details of that picture you are choosing, and make sure it configures nicely in size and quality as a mix cover, and that it doesn’t become overly pixelated when it is enlarged. Furthermore, whatever the image is, it should be something that represents or augments the musicality of soundtracks you have chosen. A good source is Google image search, image streaming sites such as visualizeus or deviantart (if you’re linking an original work, make sure you properly credit them!) There really is no particular kind of image that is “best” as a mix cover, and there isn’t any specific rules in choosing an image either. Ideally, you want to appeal to the 8tracks community, but given the myriad of tastes, you really don’t know which image will be “ideal” in that way. You should always choose something that appeals to you personally, something that catches your eye and something that you love. After your mixes begin to accumulate, those images or mix covers on your profile page will grow to define you as an 8tracks mixer.
4. More packaging: titling your mix
When titling your mix, you can either do it based on theme or functionality. If you choose to do it by theme, you can try to capture your mix by describing its musical attitude, using a metaphor or a simile, or inserting a famous/insightful quote. Sometimes, if a particular track seems to be the heart of your mix, you can even name the mix using the title of the track. To give an example, while I was brainstorming for a mix title for my most recent study mix, “The Forest Sleeps”, I was seeking a mix cover at the same time. Subconsciously I was often drawn to pictures of forests, trees and wooden houses with a hint of magic in them. At first I wanted to incorporate the picture of a stone giant/spirit sleeping in the forest as my mix cover, but unfortunately it is too small to fit the 400 x 400 criteria. With the image of “sleeping” in my head, I found an alternative that depicts a beautiful faerie maiden that sleeps in the middle of a forest-like surroundings. I wanted to capture the feelings of serenity and magic/realism present in the music. After pondering for a while, I settled with “The Forest Sleeps”, which suggests a deep communion with nature in accordance with the sleeping faerie, and also a peacefulness as well.
If you’re naming your mix based on its functionality, then simply “state your purpose” and be clear. For example, “The Ultimate Workout Mix”, “Run for your life!” or “Study Mix 2013”. Simplicity and straightforwardness can be an attractive factor to the 8trackers. With a little poignancy added, it can be a title mix that is refreshing and creative. For example, “Studying Like a Bitch” is such an accurate yet humourous representation of the studying reality that (at least, for me) I want to click into it immediately. Having that said, I generally don’t use this approach because I like coming up with mix titles and searching for a mix cover. I get to discover pretty art during the process and I enjoy being artistic and creative when it comes to wordplay.
4. Even more packaging: mix descriptions and tagging
The appropriate tagging for your mix can reach more people and subsequently bring in more views. The more popular tags (with a higher number of total usage of tags) can bring in more traffic and subsequently more views. However, that also means that new mixes with that particular tag get published more frequently, so it is very possible that you mix gets lost in the fast streaming. A more “stable” tag can bring in stable views, usually tags with a decent number of mixes tagged with them (e.g. +500, +934). The traffic is slower there, but it also means that your mix will be publicized longer.
As for mix descriptions, it usually helps if you give a general outlook of what your mix is about. Provide details about the nature of your mix, its tempo, purpose and maybe a bit background information about why you decided to make this mix in the first place. For example: “Veering away from my usual style a bit…bouncing, stealthy, and funny. A mix for whimsical nights and mischievous moods.” (From “Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans”)
The technical specs are usually already picked up by the 8tracks system, such as the number of tracks or the duration of the mix. It doesn’t hurt to reiterate and highlight them in an understandable manner so people get to know your mix better. For example: “2 hours of quick-paced instrumental epic soundtracks to keep you awake during long study hours!”
For me, as many of you have probably noticed–I write a little poem for each of my mix. Not all of them, because sometimes I simply just can’t think of anything. But I generally challenge myself to come up with something creative, or I find an inspirational quote (with proper credits) that expand upon the mood of my 8tracks mix.
5. The final step: publishing and sharing it with the world!
Now it is time to publish! It is basically just a click of the button. Here’s a little tip, though. It is generally best to publish your mix during week days: the best days to publish are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. It’s just something that I’ve noticed. Friday is the absolutely worst day to publish. Because it’s Friday, most people aren’t sitting in front of a computer. They’re out and about and having fun, which means you get less traffic for your mixes and less people will take notice of the wonderful musical selection that you have put together. Saturday is slightly better, but it seems to have less traffic as well because it is the day after Friday, and people are drunk. Just kidding! People are also out and about and having fun.
There are various ways to share and broadcast your 8track mix to the world. Facebook is an excellent platform, but the recent preview setback has proven to be profoundly depressing for constant sharers like me. You can get short codes for various blogging and social media sites so that you can embed your mix on a webpage.
Last but not least, before you publish it, you may want to take the time to select what the next mix will be after your mix is played. Since I’m not using 8tracks+ and I can’t choose my own mixes as the next mix (if I could, you would be forever trapped in my musical universe, bwahahahahaha), I usually direct 8trackers to some of my favourite mixes by my favourite mixers on 8tracks, such as idril, blankks, or kmysko. I haven’t actually tried this, but I suppose you could always collaborate with several other 8track mixers. Together, you could create an intricate, ever-looping musical web to enslave other 8trackers and place them under your grasp, and take over the world with your excellent musical tastes. *insert maniacal laugh*
And that is about all I’ve got to say about making 8track mixes. I hope this post has been informative and interesting to read so far, and I’m glad that I get to share my experiences with you. I love 8tracks since the moment I joined, and I love all of my followers that continue to like and share my music. Thank you so much for enjoying and favouriting the mixes I’ve created–it has motivated me all this time to discover more and more beautiful, quirky tracks to share with the world. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of being an 8tracker, because it’s such a happy, friendly community and I enjoy very much to be part of it. (I don’t know if you’ve noticed, there’s barely any negative comments, internet trolls or spams on 8tracks).
Anyway. Thank you for reading all the way until the end. I’ve had tremendous fun writing it, so I hope you’ve had fun reading it as well.