Professional looking Cassette Mixtapes in 2021 Full Guide:
Disclaimer: This article is not about music piracy or circumventing copyright, it's about having the ability to copy new format music that is unavilable on older formats to the beauty of cassette tapes.
Making a mixtape in 2021 - bear with me because you may think I’ve lost my mind here… trust me I haven’t but we’re going to make a Mixtape.
Not one of these Spotify playlist affairs, no, a proper old school cassette tape C90 Mixtape.
Why you ask? Well, because it’s difficult (and expensive) to buy modern music, especially Retrowave and Synthwave on cassette and of course most of it is exclusive to soundcloud or youtube these days, never receiving a commercial release. So perhaps we could consider this more like a bootleg than a true mixtape but they’re one and same to me!
Anyway, all sensible reasons aside, there’s a few things you’re going to need to do this!
A list is coming up on things you’ll need to buy/procure to produce something similar, but first of all you’re going to need some kind of tape recording device. I use a Yamaha tape deck from 1993 hooked up to my home AV receiver – your mileage may vary here because you can do this with a cassette Walkman or basically any tape recorder you like providing it’s got the ability to record from an RCA input (or mic input if you get a different cable) – I’ll be using RCA (2 plug White/Red cables).
Once you’ve got the required items together, you’re going to need some music! So let’s find some. Soundcloud and Youtube are my goto’s for this kind of thing and I’ll be using some freely available retrowave tunes from here downloaded as 320kb/s mp3s, not exactly the highest quality of audio but will do perfectly fine for our purposes.
*A note on ripping audio from youtube – it’s frowned upon if the track is not copyright free or freely available. There’s plenty of free online converters that’ll do this as whatever format you want, consult google for “youtube to mp3” and go equip with an adblock when you do!
I’ve taken the Tracks I want to record and assembled them into 2x long 320kbp/s mp3 files under 45 mins, including a couple of seconds of silence between each track using audacity, this process is literally as simple as dragging all of the files into a single audacity project and spacing them out appropriately and setting the volume levels to roughly the same across the board as there is obviously disparity between tracks recoded by different artists. Once there are exported as a single files (side 1 and side 2) I simply transfer to the device I’m going to use for output. For you this might be straight from your computer, for me it’s via a Phone with a 3.5mm headphone socket because my desktop does not live in the same room as the hifi equipment.
Actually recording onto a tape is fairly easy – simply a case of playing the music tracks from your phone / device once connected to the cassette recorder, sorting the input/recording levels out (if you have adjustment for this) and hitting record on the tape – and then waiting until complete. This process will take you around about 45 mins per side, so I’d recommend sticking the coffee on and, If using a phone, put it in flight mode because any notification noise will obviously output via the headphone socket and record right along with your music tracks.
Now all of that recording business is out of the way, we'd better make up something to improve the aesthetics of the mixtape.
To make this look the part it's time to use those J cards and the sticky labels from the earlier required list. Photoshop template for the J cards was pretty easy to acquire, there's lots of them free online however these specific Jcards are in US Letter size, which is a little bit wider than A4 and also a little shorter, so this needed to be adjusted in Photoshop.
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