In a world of digital music consumption and mass piracy, the role and function of mixtapes and albums are blurring. The question is which is more valuable for aspiring rappers and producers? Here we lay out the positives of negatives of both to let you make up your own mind.
Mixtapes have always been an underground thing. A way of trying things out and building yourself as an artist to get the attention of a label and the support to get an album released. However, there’s always the risk that giving away your music for free might devalue it. Eric Bernsen points out that “the mixtape evolved [and] went from being an exclusive item, which proved your connections to the streets, to a musical format, which helped launch the careers of rap’s biggest stars”. The great thing about mixtapes is that the artist is in complete control of releasing it so they can the decide the length, content, etc. which allows them to break a lot more rules and be as experimental as they like.
Albums are seen as an artist’s polished, professional release, showcasing the best music they can make. Some artists see it as the best way to showcase your craft. Others see it as an outdated model designed only to move units and generate singles, but it is a business at the end of the day, so what’s wrong with that?
Of course there’s no reason why you can’t use both to build your career. Eric Bernsen says that “while artists may have less creative control on albums that are being funded by major labels, they’re still able to ‘feed the streets’ with mixtapes and provide the more ‘raw’ material which garnered their success in the first place.”
“We’d love to hear your thoughts. Are mixtapes a format truly adapted to the modern music industry? Or are albums the only true way for an artist to show off their craft? Let us know what you think in the comments below.