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What's the difference between a mixtape and an album?

These days many artists (mainly Hip-Hop), are choosing to release mixtapes either before an album, or instead of albums. Here is my take on this practice. Long ago in the 80's and 90's, a DJ would get exclusive content from leaks and record labels and he or she would release a mixtape of that music. They could do there own remixes and blends and it was a special thing. It usually was a win situation for record labels as well because these mixtapes would promote their artists. They were generally free. Sometimes a well known DJ would charge money but generally they were free. They were and are easy to manufacture as well. All they are is a slim lined jewel case and a printed postcard for the album cover. The CD's are usually burned as well. It has become a fairly cheap way to get music out quick.
Then independent artists realized this was a cheap way to get their music out so they started getting DJ's to host a full mixtape of their music. They would then either sell them or give them away for free.
Then indie artists started dropping the DJ aspect of it, and just started releasing mixtapes on their own which in turn flooded the market with way too crappy music. Not all of it is crappy but the flood gate opened because putting out a mixtape is very cheap to do. Now since then, major label artists started getting smart and used the mixtape as a way to promote their upcoming album. The idea is to release a pre-album, the mixtape, with exclusive content. Then they hope that they get fans hooked for when they drop their full length album. The formula has worked well for many artists. I still think the mixtape thing has gotten out of hand. Especially for indie and unsigned artists. I think it looks more professional to release a full length album which is retail ready. That means it is a regular CD, full color with a bar code and shrink wrapped. It should be properly copy-written and  registered with Soundscan. This is your music where be around forever. it will generally always be listed on digital outlets and back catalogs of CD websites. Plus all your sales will be documented an d charted if they do well and this is essentially your resume. Do not get me wrong, mixtapes can be a good way to promote your music for free  but do not rely on them as the only way to release your music. Put out a real album and reap the benefits. Use the mixtape as a promotional tool. Yes, it is expensive to manufacture a full retail ready CD, but you must invest in your career to make money. 1,000 retail ready CD's with a bar code is generally $1,100 and well worth it. Music is a business and you must treat it as one if you want to make any money. Yes, it is an art, but if you want to stick to the art part only then do it as a hobby. A career needs be a money maker.


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