A blank tape used for mixtapes

Home-made mixtapes were a big part of the music culture in the 80s and somewhat in the 90’s but with the advent of CDs and now the domination of digital music, in particular streaming, mixtapes have long been a thing of the past.

Apple wish to change that. Whether this is a nostalgia-based venture or if Apple has a desire to introduce new and future generations to the charm of personalised playlist gifting is unknown but this revival seems to mark an interesting (re)-introduction to the age of digital music – out with the old, then back in with the old again.

Apple described the idea in their patent on the US Patent & Trademark Office website as ‘Digital Mixed Tapes’ that will allow the “gifting of personalized album(s).”

In their patent Apple talk about the rise of electronic devices capable of playing digital music in recent years as well as the dramatic growth of digital music sales. They continue, saying:

However, the digital age has lost some of the personalization that was available during the analog age. For example, the creation and gifting of a cassette mixed tape was a popular activity between two parties. The compilation of songs would be recorded on a cassette tape and given to another on a special occasion such as a birthday or on Valentine’s Day. Cassette tapes had their drawbacks however. For instance, the artists were never appropriately compensated for the music that was recorded on the cassette mixed tape.

The system for creating a mixtape would be simple and familiar, assumably working similarly to playlists in iTunes and Apple Music in which you select a group of songs but with extra customisability for ordering songs, playback options and so on.

Sketch of how ‘Digital Mixed Tapes’ could work on two iPads
Source: USPTO

The most important and distinguishing factor for Apple’s digital mixtapes would be the personalisation of the album you’re gifting. You will reportedly be able to restrict the recipients ability to skip or fast forward tracks with the option to even hide tracks to be revealed upon being played.

You can also add in media such as photos and iBooks that will display an image or series of images set to a backtrack. Anyone who created or received a physical mixtape will know the importance of images with mixtapes as the custom artwork created by the gifter was often almost as important as the selected tracks.

Recipients will receive a notification that they have been sent a digital mix tape and will then have the option to accept or reject. As the gifter of the mixtape has to pay a sum for the mixtape they will be charged upon on acceptance but will be refunded upon refusal.

Source: USPTO

It is yet unclear as to when Apple plans to implement this feature into future versions of Apple Music or iTunes but the technology seems to be developed allowing for an easy rollout, so we could be seeing Apple’s ‘Digital Mixed Tapes’ very soon.

I for one would graciously welcome the digital revival of something that created a personal connection with the music and allowed you to adequately replicate your feelings for someone through a collection of the most cringe-inducing love songs you can recollect. But in all seriousness, whilst not a vital addition to the world of digital music this could reintroduce what was once a unique method of synergising music and the emotion it elicits within us and sharing that with friends, family and now, thanks to the internet, anyone around the world.