And Muxtape for All

MuxtapeIn some respects, I think Muxtape, the popular site for creating so-called “MP3 mixtapes” is a triumph. Ostensibly a tool for creating personal playlists from nominally legal music tracks, it is in actuality very much a piece of social software. Except that the traditional trappings of social software — buddy lists, presence management, intra-membership messaging, etc. — are almost entirely missing. In a sense, it’s a kind of anti-Facebook, and in that functional asceticism, it’s really kind of a marvel.

On the other hand, minimalism has its drawbacks as well as its advantages. To be sure there’s real beauty to Muxtape’s enormous and simple music playback interface — its single-tasking posture may yet turn out to be as iconic as the original Google home page — but it’s also frustrating.

Muxtape, Are You Listening?

There are two things that I want to do with Muxtape, and that I can’t. The first is browsing other Muxtapes without interrupting the playback of the songs I’m listening to at any given moment. That’s easily enough solved by opening up in a second browser tab or window, but I find that solution to be pretty clumsy.

The second limitation that frustrates me is not so easily resolved: anyone who’s invested time, energy and personal feeling into compiling a mixtape (read: everyone) is going to have something additional to say about the sequencing, the lyrics, the music, the origin album, etc. For better or worse, a lot of those people will want to write that commentary down, and have it accompany the track listing. Muxtape doesn’t let you annotate your track listings. Which is why I’m listing the tracks from my Muxtape here, where I can annotate as much or as little as I want.

Have a listen over at, and since there’s no commenting functionality over at either, let me know what you think in the comments below.
No. Artist Song Name
01 Johnny Foreigner Suicide Pact, Yeh?
“It’s not like I stood here wishing you were dead. I just want you to succeed at something you want to succeed at.” Disturbingly happy.
02 Moto Boy Young Love (Short Version)
Precious melancholia from the excellent Swedish lable Songs I Wish I Had Written.
03 McLusky Alan Is a Cowboy Killer
Retro-nineties, through the lens of the early 2000s.
04 Annuals Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
An echo-laden, modern rendition of the spiritual standard that beautifully, dissonantly honest.
05 My Teenage Stride Heartless & Cruel
Catchy, anthemic pop with a not insubstantial debt to The Smiths.
06 Lil’ Lavair & The Fabulous Jades Cold Heat
A thrill of a funk number from a nearly forgotten Californian act, included on the essential, eponymous compilation from Now-Again Records.
07 Jeremy Jay Hold Me in Your Arms Tonight
From one of my favorite records of the year so far.
08 Lou Reed Crazy Feeling
Irresistible opening track to the indispensable “Coney Island Baby.”
09 Talking Heads Houses in Motion
From the hey day. Just because they’ve had the good taste not to cash in on a reunion tour doesn’t mean this band doesn’t deserve a revival.
10 Lizzy Mercier Descloux No Golden Throat
Criminally overlooked No Wave artist.
11 Lykke Li Dance Dance Dance
If you make it all the way to the end of this mix, you can think of this sugary treat, from an up and coming Swedish chanteuse, as the payoff. Totally worth it.
  1. I think it should be easier to browse Muxtapes, yes, but then again that’s what sites like Muxtapes Stumbler are for.

    I’m kind of a fan of ‘letting the music speak for itself,’ so the lack of allowable commentary isn’t too bad. I did have a helluva time getting my tracks to be ordered correctly, as it would say it ‘saved’ them, but then I’d visit and they’d still be out of whack. And then had to re-upload everything after their servers ate a bunch of stuff. 🙁

    Anyways, I’ll give yours a listen, and mine’s here.

  2. These ideas are well received here. has been in the works for a while now with a balance of features and simplicity. Interesting to see how it’ll be accepted ‘post-muxtape’. Send me an email and I’ll add you to the preview list. We’re still in private beta…

  3. Anti-Facebook, perhaps… but this thing is screaming out to be a Facebook widgetpplication. So long vampires and werewolves, bring on Muxtape playlists!

  4. BTW, the disclaimer at the bottom is sort of ambiguous… ‘By uploading a song you agree that you have permission to let Muxtape use it.’ hmm… oh well, :upload:

  5. I admit I don’t use muxtape but I find any web app that doesn’t have commenting/sharing/widgets + all the usual web 2.0 monetization hooks to be very refreshing. It’s super minimal and does what it needs to.

  6. I’m also torn between the stark minimalism and the need for functionality. I want to add artwork! I want to acknowledge what I’m listening to! I want to find similar mixes!

    I can see this developing into something much more detailed over time, and then probably being snapped up by Apple and squeezed into iTunes, much like the CoverFlow application was. (Not necessarily a bad thing – Apple seem to have lost focus on what iTunes was originally meant for: tunes, not a means to sell mobile phone applications.)

    Anyway, here’s mine.

  7. Daniel: There is a lastFM post plugin for Firefox, and lets you discover muxtapes based on either an artist or if you enter an existing muxtape based on that compilation.

    That said I’d opt for the minimalism. When people blog about their new muxtapes there’s an actual conversation. If you now added tagging, searching, commenting and what not, that would harm the very basic idea of it. I’ve discovered loads of music by just listening to what people put together, but not if I had decided not to try it based on the notes or comments.

  8. Jan – thank you! I have this strange obsession with having absolutely everything I listen to recorded by – seriously, if I hear a song in a shop, I want it acknowledged somewhere that I’ve listened to it! It’s a sickness, I know…

    I’m now likely to use Muxtape a lot more, just because of that one plugin!

  9. Daniel Miller: In my track listing above, you can click on any artist name for more information, or on the track name for a link to the original album on Amazon.

  10. Muxtape is listening 🙂 The minimalism is a both a design intent and a side effect of being (for now) a one-man operation. It’s definitely my goal to keep it extremely simple and focused, but the lack of certain features has more to do with my being slow to develop them than a conscious decision not to implement. When I first launched the site I thought I’d be spending the next months working on the experience, but it became popular so fast that I’ve had to put much more time into scaling and making sure the trains run on time.

    In any case, the features are coming, and they address your concerns exactly. Individual track captions have been on my list for a while (a common use case I’ve seen is people doing a weekly email with an updated muxtape and liner notes; soon you’ll be able to accomplish the whole package within the site). The ability to browse through muxtapes while continuing to hear music is possible through an alternative interface that’s in private beta right now (and which I’d be happy to add you to).

    Jan & Daniel — integrated support is days away. The reporting is already working, I just want to make sure the interface for linking your account is right before I launch it. The next step will be incorporating your listening data for recommendations.

    Khoi, thanks for the review, Subtraction has been a longtime influence for me and I was thrilled to read your thoughts.

  11. Indeed, nice mix Khoi.

    Each of us at Burst made our own Muxtapes back near its launch.

    I do think allowing comments with each track would add some meaning without too much clutter, fwiw… but dig the stripped down interface, no question. Great work, Justin. The updates you have planned sound promising. Really cool of you to weigh in here, too.

  12. I’m definitely enjoying your musical tastes, Khoi.

    And I like how muxtape doesn’t have any debris in their design, I’m loving it.

    Reminds me of what Songerize used to be, before they shoved millions of ads on it.

  13. I think that the feature to keep playing the song in the playlist while one browses other ‘muxtapper’s’ list can be done implementing the same technique that keeps facebook’s chat opened in the bottom of the screen, even while browsing the whole facebook.

  14. I enjoy the minimalism of muxtape as it reminds me of the simplicity of oldschool mixtapes. I don’t mind the barebones approach they employ. I think it’s a trip.

    I use when I want to discover new artists in a souped-up environment.

    Also- I’m glad to see you’re still alive and kicking!

  15. Jan, thanks so much for the link to the script.

    Justin, thanks so much for listening to your users and creating a great product.

    Khoi, thanks for introducing me to Jeremy Jay. Great Muxtape.

  16. I don’t think I could disagree *more*. I love Muxtape for it’s uncanny ability to force me to listen to music ‘the right way’ — in order, no cheating, and without any distractions.

    The idea of ‘the mix’ is that it’s a crafted experience, one to be enjoyed as a whole document. As Muxtape stands currently, this is nailed 100%. You can listen to music pretty much anywhere on the net these days — why should we change the _one unique_ music experience to conform and morph into just another annoying, ‘social music experience’.

    Anyway, that’s my take.

  17. Great selection of songs! And of course I’m proud and happy to find Moto Boy in your Muxtape.

    Here’s a mux you might like:

    It’s the bands featured this summer in the club I’m running in Malm, Sweden.

Thank you! Your remarks have been sent to Khoi.