Managing a swap? Streaming music edition March 13, 2019 6:01 PM   Subscribe

I was looking at the wiki and I noticed that the last mixtape swap was in 2014. I think it could be fun to have another one, maybe through making playlists on a streaming music service like Spotify. I have never run a swap before though.

Would someone walk me through how to run one? Or does an experienced person want to take this on? I do not feel any ownership over running this. I just want to swap music with Internet strangers/friends.
posted by CMcG to MetaFilter-Related at 6:01 PM (50 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

I would be interested in participating. Thanks for suggesting it!

Curious what others think: can we have separate swaps for those who want physical mixtapes and for those who want digital playlists?

With the understanding, of course, that one can participate in both if they wish to do so.
posted by nightrecordings at 7:24 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


I still have an external burner and a stack of CD-Rs, so I'm in to do this however folks would like.

I will say that a lot of my favorite music isn't found on $streaming_service, so I'd rather default to an MP3 folder/playlist hosted on Google Drive or something if people don't want to get physical.
posted by mykescipark at 10:03 PM on March 13 [3 favorites]


I’m so happy you’ve posted this: I’ve been weighing up writing exactly the same post for a little while now.

If you need a co-organiser, memail me. :)

A few quick thoughts:

- I definitely wouldn’t tie it to Spotify (or whatever) specifically, but allow people to pick whatever service they like. (YouTube, Dropbox, Soundcloud are a few I can think of.)

- I loved the old swaps and would probably participate in a physical swap if we do one this time, but I do think the overhead on that is higher both for organisers and participants, just as a note.

- I would encourage people to make covers for their mixes, whether physical or digital, because that’s fun. :)
posted by daisyk at 12:09 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


I haven't used it, but it might be useful: combine.fm can help find songs across services.
posted by Pronoiac at 2:03 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Definitely down for a digital/spotify play-list swap. I enjoy making playlists and this would be fun.
posted by Fizz at 4:53 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Mixcloud is excellent for sharing mixtapes; artists get paid. And curators can collect shows by different creators, so there could be a Mefi 2019 collection. Only downside: you have to upload a finished mix audio file, you can't just give it a list of songs. On the other hand, there may be tools that can do that. Anyway, I think as a distribution platform it has a lot of benefits (especially in the "not ripping off artists" category) so worth some research.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:41 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


I'm really liking the idea that everyone can find their own streaming service with some guidelines around that.
posted by CMcG at 5:45 AM on March 14


I'd be up for mailing CDs. I don't subscribe to services though, so I'd rather not do playlists with one of them.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:18 AM on March 14


I would definitely be interested. I would LOVE to receive a cd, although I don't have the materials to burn my own so it'd have to be digital on my end.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 9:10 AM on March 14


I understand the appeal of receiving physical media, but surely in 2019 CDs are not the right answer? TBH, a CD box with nothing in it but a URL to download the music would be more convenient for me than a CD.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 10:18 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Ironically, I think if I got a CD I'd be more likely to spend time listening to it and appreciating it since I have a CD player in my car and a 35 minute commute. I also have bluetooth and I realize I could just stream the playlist, but somehow it's not the same thing.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 10:54 AM on March 14


Hey all, just piping up to say: if/when I do this (with help! hi daisyk!), it will be digital-based. I welcome, however, another organizer running a physical swap concurrently (or whenever). I'm still looking to understand what organizing swaps entails. Anyone have any perspective on that? Here's what I am assuming:
- I make guidelines including deadlines for delivery
- I ask people to sign up (via a google form? email?) and provide important information*
- I randomly assign people to small groups
- I let people know about their small group assignments
- I help troubleshoot issues??

I appreciate all the feedback so far. It's help me clarify that
- my desire is to organize a swap for music in a digital format
- it would be helpful to include in the guidelines ideas about where said digital files can be made, but this will be up to participants. (Looking for more places, so keep 'em coming.) One hiccup I'm concerned with is making random groups, but then someone in said group can't access the digital files because they don't have a subscription or something. Thoughts?
- Love the idea of encouraging art work (another h/t to daisyk)
posted by CMcG at 10:57 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Ah yes, my *

*I'd love to know about non-obvious important information from people who have run swaps before.
posted by CMcG at 10:58 AM on March 14


Could you include a question about preferences for subscription services, much like the physical exchange questions have a question that asks if you want to only be matched with someone in the same country, you want to be matched with someone internationally, or you don't care?
posted by lucy.jakobs at 11:04 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Could you include a question about preferences for subscription services, much like the physical exchange questions have a question that asks if you want to only be matched with someone in the same country, you want to be matched with someone internationally, or you don't care?
posted by lucy.jakobs An hour ago [+] [!]


I will also note that this is more complex than it seems, since streaming services have differing licensing agreements from country to country. Albums and tracks available in one place will not necessarily be available elsewhere. Which has the potential to undermine the highly curated and painstakingly sequenced nature of mix tapes.

I think it has to involve a solution where the mixtape creator has direct and irrevocable access to their chosen songs, and passes them along in a similarly ironclad format to the other members of their swap team. That means either CD-Rs, MP3 folders, or Mixcloud-style mixes.

(I am not particularly fussed about music creator royalties or reimbursements in this very specific case, since creators never made a cent off hand-dubbed Maxell C-90s back in the day either. And these are being created for a similarly private and individual use.)
posted by mykescipark at 12:47 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


I've looked around a number of times for real cheap 1 gig usb drives but no luck. 1 gig is a *lot* of music, even a half gig usb drive would work, gotta know that there are truckloads of these things somewhere.

Or maybe even a micro SD card would work but good luck finding a one gig card anywhere. Again, somewhere there are truckloads of these things, but duckduckgo hasn't helped me find them.

Also I've thought about sharing a folder on google drive, which someone upthread also hit on.

I participated in a cd swap here once and it was just great music, and a lot of fun.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:20 PM on March 14


I wonder if it would work to declare "gimme some files to download" the default, match people up, and then stipulate that if a matched pair do both agree on a service (or on a quaint anachronism like exchanging pieces of solid matter), they're welcome to switch to it. That seems like much less work for the organizer than trying to create matches in which every person is certain to get to use their #1 favorite service/anachronism.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:50 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Just to throw a wrench into the system: I have no means to play a CD; Spotify would be easiest for me.

Also, what is a mixtape -- just songs that we like (in an order that we like) and think the other person might enjoy? Or is it like secret quonsar where people say what kind of music they want, or what they usually listen to, and you have to riff off of that?

I would be in it just to break out of my filter bubble, but want to be sure I can meet the requirements.
posted by batter_my_heart at 7:07 PM on March 14


Mixtape swaps are not playlist swaps. Physical media or nothing. CDs are best but I could also see putting an ordered CD-length playlist on a thumb drive and mailing that as an acceptable option.

I don't subscribe to anything. I buy everything I listen to. (Or YouTube, which I know is cheating.)
posted by hippybear at 9:21 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


I would be excited to participate in a swap, but CDs would be a no-go for me. I don't have a burner anymore and the only means to play them is the game console in my living room.

I would be super in for a digital swap, or a USB/SD-card swap.

Also, what is a mixtape -- just songs that we like (in an order that we like) and think the other person might enjoy? Or is it like secret quonsar where people say what kind of music they want, or what they usually listen to, and you have to riff off of that?

The last CD swap I was in, you sent the same mixtape to 5 other people. I actually like that better than anything more personalised, because you get exposed to a range of music outside of your usual wheelhouse.
posted by Gordafarin at 4:35 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Thanks, everyone for the feedback. I have a new multi-part plan.

- I'm going to try to put together a completely unrelated swap around a poetry exchange for April to practice admin'ing swaps. I think it has less logistics and would be good practice for me. Stay tuned for this.

- I'm going to make this into a two-step swap. The first step is going to be people declaring which type of group they want to be involved in; if there are at least two people in all three types (that I am imagining), I will proceed with setting up the three types of swaps under the umbrella of "The Great Music Exchange of Spring 2019" (h/t to hippybear on the difference between a mixed tape and a playlist)

PS: If anyone wants to travel back in time to 1990 and run across the room to hit record on their boombox when 105.9 The X plays the Foo Fighters, missing the first 3 to 5 seconds of the song, but FINALLY being able to show their brother what song they are talking about, you are going to have to run your own swap (but also I want in).
posted by CMcG at 6:49 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]


Sounds good to me!

Also technology is awesome, but dang it makes things complicated. I like the idea of sending a USB stick or something but...I don't buy music. I pay for streaming services and I'm not opposed to maybe buying music for a swap but I don't even know the best place to buy it or know what the preferred .mp3 (is music still in .mp3 format) player is. I'm feeling pretty...dumb? Something.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 7:18 AM on March 15


You're not alone, lucy.jakobs! I admire people's passion, but it also made me feel a bit overwhelmed about running this. I had to give myself a little pep talk to come up with a new plan and decide to keep trying.
posted by CMcG at 7:38 AM on March 15


Mixtape swaps are not playlist swaps. Physical media or nothing. CDs are best...

I was with you 10000% until that last bit, hippybear. Since its not worth a swap on its own, anyone who wants to trade actual audio cassette mixtapes, MeMail me!
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 7:40 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


I used to do the the CD version of this back in the day and loved it, but I don't think I even have a functional CD burner anymore. My physical content at this stage in the game is almost entirely (way too much) vinyl.

I'd love a playlist swap or even just a thread where we post links to playlists. I pay for several of the streaming services.
posted by thivaia at 8:39 AM on March 15


I'd love to exchange some mixes, somehow...but with the general consensus that the idea of swapping physical CDs has Gone the Way of All Flesh (sorry hippybear), is there any real need for all the logistics behind creating swapping groups? All of that was just to get the costs and material handling aspects of burning and mailing discs down to a manageable size. We could just agree to meet back here in a month or two, and post whatever links the participant feels works for them.

I don't do Spotify, but it won't kill me to sign up for a month or whatever; I like hearing what other people are into, and if that's how they do, fine by me. I personally would probably provide a dropbox link to a single mp3 file (assembled from multiple files in Audacity or similar). Why this method? Because a true mixtape is a carefully constructed, hand-crafted audio artifact, incorporating snippets of dialogue from favorite movies and other aural ephemera, with a thematic core running throughout that builds to an emotional crescendo; it's most definitely not idly collecting links on some streaming service while waiting for a latte. But I digress.
posted by Bron at 10:55 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]


I am very excited about this. I was just thinking about how much I miss mixtapes.

I'm willing to make a YouTube playlist of disco music videos, by which I mean I am already making a YouTube playlist of disco videos.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:51 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


I loved the CDs but I don't have a burner anymore. I'd be down to participate in other ways and would welcome receiving a cd for sure.
posted by mmmbacon at 2:05 PM on March 15


Would love to participate in all/any of:

-Spotify
-Other digital
-USB
-CDR
posted by dreamlanding at 3:54 PM on March 15


Your two-step plan sounds good, CMcG! Everyone has had great input for what they want and need in a swap, but as organiser, you need to do something that's viable for you. Looking forward to what you come up with, and still available if you need me!
posted by daisyk at 3:28 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


CMcG, my advice is to pick one type of swap and stick with it. Those who want to participate in that particular swap will do so and others will be disappointed or not and move on, but from the vantage of administering the ordeal you're going to want to keep things simple. The permutations of individual requests and preferences is multitudinous and never-ending so you'll be doing yourself a favor if you just set out your ideal parameters and hew strong to those.

Please feel free to email me if you have questions or wevs. (Not MeMail though, it takes me too long to notice a new message.)
posted by carsonb at 7:03 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


I love to make mixes! I'm in.

Also, it would be fun to have some sort of constraint, like you have to include at least one particular musician or genre or something. But I think doing a whole mix based on a request (like it has to be a modern jazz mix or something) would be too much.

Like some others, I don't have any way to burn or play CDs at home. I'd have to be all digital, unfortunately.
posted by rue72 at 7:24 AM on March 16


I'd love to do a physical version. $10 can get 50 128MB usb keys, and I prefer that kind of restricted capacity for something like this.
posted by rhizome at 12:10 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Usb's that get mailed around like a chain letter, where everyone adds their own folder to it before passing it on, would be a really neat experience.
posted by OnefortheLast at 12:57 PM on March 16 [5 favorites]


No tape technology (I still have one cassette that I eventually want to get digitized somehow). No CD burner. No skills in making playlists of any sort of theme.

I do have a collection of odd MP3's. Maybe like X# of favorite things that always make you happy when they pop up in your random playlist.

Or... each track has a little bit of history of why you'd make somebody listen...
posted by zengargoyle at 5:28 PM on March 16


I would be totally down with this. It's sort of hard for me to burn CDs, though, as all I have at home is an iPad Pro.
posted by holborne at 9:14 AM on March 18


Usb's that get mailed around like a chain letter, where everyone adds their own folder to it before passing it on, would be a really neat experience.

This Is Utterly Brilliant!

Put together chains of 10 people, each person gets 700mb MAX of space for their music folder. Each person starts out with their folder numbered as 1 (the originator of the stick), then the next they receive, they are 2, and then 3, and so on. Each stick ends up unique but with the same music, each revealed in a different way to each participant.

THIS IS A BRILLIANT NEW WAY TO DO MUSIC SWAPS!
posted by hippybear at 10:09 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Chains of 5 might be more manageable.
posted by hippybear at 10:11 PM on March 22


Hey all! I have had a family health emergency and am not going to be able to take this on for the foreseeable future. If someone else wants to run with this, I’d love that. Thanks!
posted by CMcG at 5:13 PM on March 23


Hey CMcG, I'm so sorry to hear about your emergency! I wish you and your family all the best and hope it gets resolved soon.

In CMcG's absence, I'm going to step up and take on organising this swap!

Here's what I propose:
- an all-digital swap
- groups of six, just because that was how carsonb used to run the mix-CD swap
- the default is going to be uploading files somewhere that other people can download them, like Google Drive or Dropbox
- you can totally provide mixes on streaming services as a supplement
- you are highly encouraged to make a cover for your mix! That can be purely art, just the tracklisting, or anywhere in between, as you like

My partner Zarkonnen has offered to help me out with this, because he's great. :)

Now, thinking about dates... what do people think of this timetable? I pulled it out of thin air so I'm open to input.

- Sign-ups: April 1-14
- Group allocation: April 19
- Deadline for sending mixes: May 17 (four weeks later)
posted by daisyk at 4:34 AM on March 24 [6 favorites]


Works for me!
posted by holborne at 6:52 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


Is there a suggestion for size/time limits and format? I have some flac/ogg things and would probably put up a zip under a temporary spot on my domain or something.
posted by zengargoyle at 10:12 PM on March 24


Is there a suggestion for size/time limits and format?

I personally would very much love this to stick to mix-tape-esque parameters, even if that means rewinding to the era before CD-Rs: Two “sides,” 30-45 minutes each, and however you theme or divide or otherwise distinguish beyond that is up to you. The prospect of an Endless Playlist pretty much guarantees that I’ll never make it to the end, and I would prefer for creators (myself included) to accept the limitations as inspiration. So perhaps each master folder has a Side A subfolder and a Side B subfolder, or the tracks are named A-01 // B-01 etc ... that kind of thing.

In terms of file format, MP3 is still obviously the most democratic (and I don’t own even a fraction of my music in FLAC except bootlegs), but if people really wanna stand firm with their lossless equivalents, I’m not gonna tell them no. And yes, it’s very easy to downsample/convert to lossy formats, but it is an extra step/barrier to immediate enjoyment. I don’t really have a strong dog in the fight except to point it out.
posted by mykescipark at 10:35 PM on March 24


cassettes are lossy too, extremely so in most cases, so I'm fine with trading sub-perfect quality for playability. "you like it, you buy it" seems like a decent compromise.
posted by rhizome at 11:51 AM on March 25


I don't have access to my big mp3 collection from years ago (on account of having left that hard drive in California, whoops). I have my record collection, but no turntable or audio interface. I'll have to see what I can pull off by April 19th.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:34 PM on March 25


They'll only be 128kbps, but you can snag anything you want from YouTube with youtube-dl (youtube-dl -x URL to only save the audio).
posted by rhizome at 1:29 PM on March 25 [3 favorites]


Anyone who reads my music posts knows I strong believe in separating albums up into sides.

Limits are good to work within. They bring out creativity. For reference, Sgt Peppers is only 20 minutes per side.
posted by hippybear at 6:58 PM on March 26


...also, daisyk, I'm all in on your timeline. Already thinking about what to include!
posted by mykescipark at 2:08 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


I’d love to do this again. Very much enjoyed sending and receiving music on the earlier swaps (and appreciate the effort which the organisers put into making it happen.
posted by rongorongo at 3:32 PM on March 28


Very much looking forward to this. Been a while since I made a proper mix.

Many thanks to daisyk!
posted by dreamlanding at 11:28 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


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