This is a guest post by CNOTE of HeinousBeatz.com. Today he’s going to share his process of making & promoting a mixtape. I felt this would be a beneficial post as mixtapes have become a big part of an artist’s and producer’s branding, especially in urban music genres like; Hip-Hop, trap, Dubstep, and other Sub-Genres.
I’m CNOTE, a Hip-Hop Music Producer.
My goal is to share my process for making and releasing mixtapes online because, in today’s urban music scene, they’re very important! Why they’re important: Making a mixtape can yield many benefits, such as fan base creation, exposure, and promo/marketing, and it can represent a full body of work that you can later give to an A&R or investor.
Creating a mixtape is easy if you have a basic music production setup. And if you have a collection of songs, much of the work is already done. That being said, let’s dive in.
What Is A Mixtape?
A Mixtape is a compilation of various songs traditionally recorded onto a cassette tape and passed amongst friends. Also known as a Compilation Album, It was playlisting before digital playlists were a thing.
Hip-Hop/Rap Artists later took the concept, compiled their own music to cassette, and passed it around as an unofficial album. This served as a great way to promote the artist and was given away for free.
Over time, the medium changed from Cassette to CD and is often in digital form:
- Streaming links/Playlists.
Side Note: Sometimes, Mixtapes are well thought out and are as quality and planned as an official album, other times, they aren’t.
How To Create and Release A Mixtape
Let’s dive into the meat and potatoes: I tried my best to make this easy to follow. If you get stuck somewhere, leave a question in the comment section, and I’ll revisit and clarify for you. Ok, let’s GO!
Step 1: Create A Concept For Your Mixtape
The idea here is to capture the overall feel you’re going for. This might be in the form of a theme or cover artwork. You want to make sure your mixtape has direction rather than being a list of random tracks.
Step 2: Gather All The Songs You Want To Compile Together
I start off by making a new folder naming it something like “fresh mix” (you can change this later). I then find my favorite tracks that correspond with my concept →, creating a playlist.
A playlist will help with organization for both you and the DJ if you decide to use one. So now you have your concept and a playlist of songs, we can go to the next step.
Step 3: Find A DJ To Host The Mixtape Or DIY?
The DIY Method I handle all of my projects in-house, but there are times when outsourcing is needed. Here are a few resources I use to free up my time, speed up the overall process, and it’s less expensive. Freeway Ricky Ross Will Host Your Mixtape
To ALL Rappers , If you want Freeway Rick Ross to host your mixtape retweet this post and hit us up. — Freeway Rick Ross (@FreewayRicky) April 5, 2014
Wigman – A site where I get custom DJ drops → $20 will get you 3 tags. Some of my best drops have come from this website.
Knock Squared – A site for amazing vocal tags and drops. The price is very affordable $29.99. He has an amazing voice.
Donald Jr – This guy does great work, I’ve hired him myself (high quality and affordable route).
Hiring A Dj To Host → This can get very pricey! Dj Noize – Great spot for your promotion, social network blast, upload to all major mixtape sites, banners, and more. Contact for a price quote. Getting a DJ to host your project is a sound investment and will SHINE when presented to your fans.
Step 4: Get A Mixtape Cover Designed (Important)
A big problem I see with many artists and music producers making is poor graphic choices. If the artwork is trash with little effort put into it, people will often assume the same about the music.
With that being said, high-quality graphics are a must-have, and they don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. I highly recommend using these helpful resources…
If you can’t afford a graphic designer or want to create the cover yourself, grab a copy of Photoshop or GIMP. Gimp is a free alternative to Photoshop and is compatible ish with PSD files.
WARNING!!! Don’t put a bunch of logos and URLs on the front of your mixtape → a lot of sites hate this. Your cover design should be clean, using high quality graphics.
Obviously, work with what you have, as the music will speak for itself, but quality graphics are often received better. Remember, first impressions…
Mixtape Cover Tip: Make two sizes 400px by 400px (actual CD cover size for folder) and 800px by 800px (website cover image to upload), put your cover in the folder with the songs and compress it into a .zip file.
Some sites require a .zip format for easy uploading. At this point, you should have a folder with your music, a high resolution mixtape cover, and a personality (drops, Host, etc.).
Almost forgot the back cover: Back covers with track listings are optional, as many sites don’t allow the back cover to be visible to the public. I’d still suggest one, as it could be used later in your promo and marketing campaigns.
Step 5: Start Applying To Sites & Uploading Your Mixtape
Here are some of the most recent and relevant ones I use.
Coast2Coast Mixtapes – This site is really easy to apply for. Great traffic and really high-quality mixtapes. Lots of opportunities here. They offer everything from radio spins to magazine features, and yes, they have their own magazine.
Audiomack – Allows you to integrate youtube videos with your uploads. This is powerful because you can embed video with your mixtape. AudioMack also offers the ability to connect with your Twitter account.
Mixtapefactory – This site is fairly new but has an attractive look and feel. Mixtapefactory offers one of the best music players for you to embed all over the net. Simple to apply, also.
MixtapesTV – This company has been doing the mixtape thing for a while, with a loyal audience, your mixtape will surely get noticed. Easy to get uploading rights.
Mixconnect – This mixtape spot is extremely user friendly and has a decent amount of followers.
Certified Mixtapez – Somewhat new to me, but I like their layout and the fact that they don’t require you to apply. That was a relief because applying to these mixtape sites is a pain. I’m still waiting for responses from 8 months ago!
Datpiff – A must for any mixtape artist or DJ. Really, it’s one of the biggest mixtape sites out there, and they’re always updating with new material.
Mixtapetorrent – This is a torrent site that has been one of the top spots for mixtape distribution, but you have to apply through mixfiend.com first to qualify. Those are just a few to get you started, if it’s in your budget, I recommend using a mixtape distribution company. Someone like
Viral Media Boost – A Mixtape Distribution site that offers reasonably priced services, where they will upload your mixtape to all these sites mentioned.
Step 6: Promote Your Music
One thing to remember is never to SPAM people with your mixtape. Spamming means posting on other people’s timelines on Facebook, twitting your mixtape to those you don’t know, and constantly pushing your mixtape to your social media feeds. BIG NO-NO!!!
There is a right way and wrong way to promote your project, and outsourcing to a special team dedicated to helping build your brand awareness has a huge bonus!
Here is a promoter I strongly recommend: Everyday Hip-Hop – This promoter will share your Mixtape Cover with their fanbase of 300k via tweets and blog posts.
If you don’t work with this guy, that’s ok, just make sure the promoter can give you a detailed list and show proof that your project was submitted, if they can’t, move on.
Bonus Tip: Create a special Facebook fan page just for your mixtape.
How To Add Tags and Dj Jobs To Your Songs
Frequently Asked Questions:
Should I Get A Mixing Engineer To Mix and Master For Me?
Yes, a mixing engineer is a great asset to have if you can afford one. If hiring a mixing engineer is out of your budget, you DIY, but it will take some time.
Check out my mixing for beginners guide, it’s simple to follow. Ideally, you’ll likely be fine if your songs are leveled relatively well and clear, meaning nothing is cluttered and distorted.
What Is The Difference Between Mixtapes and Albums
From an artist’s perspective…Albums are traditionally well planned, polished, and professional sounding. Mixtapes are generally a collection of songs that didn’t make an album. Mixtapes can also be comprised of songs the artist has no concrete plans for.
How Long Should a Mixtape Be?
A mixtape can be any length you want. When I was younger, most mixtapes were similar to full-length albums, ranging from 10 to 20 tracks and a total runtime of about 30 to 60 minutes, sometimes longer.
That’s Really All There is To It
Dropping a mixtape is pretty simple once you understand the process. The more you do, the easier it will become, as with most things in the music industry.
Despite changes in the music industry, mixtapes remain relevant in 2023, and technology has made them easier to create than ever before. Not to mention, They serve as great marketing and promo vehicles as well as a form of musical expression for both artists and listeners.