Arts, Culture & Media

San Francisco group brings back mixtape popularity

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Cassette tapes were one of the first devices used for making homemade mixes. The San Francisco Mixtape Society rewards participants who bring music on tape. (Photo from Flickr user practicalowl.)

Despite the existence of web services such as Spotify and YouTube, physical mixtapes, a phenomenon that gained popularity in the early 1980s, are making a comeback.

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The San Francisco Mixtape Society meets monthly to share music. Attendees bring a mix of music, whether on a flashdrive, CD, cassette tape or otherwise. The suppliers of the best mixes, as determined by judges and the audience, win prizes. By the end of the night, mixes are raffled off, and audience members who brought music leave with a different mix than the one they came in with.

Event nights are themed around an idea or phrase, loosely dictating how a mix should be assembled. February's theme was "under the covers." Annie Lin explained that the themes are loose and allow for audience interpretations, with some participants creating a "making out mixtape," while others chose to make mixes of cover songs. One of the popular mixes at the event featured female artists covering songs performed by men, such as Cat Power covering Frank Sinatra.

The group has seen steady support since it's creation. It has more than 900 followers on it's Facebook page. John Verocchi, co-founder of the group, explained that members enjoy demonstrating their ability to make mixes this way.

"One, it's maybe just people trying to show off their musical prowess and all of the great (music) you've never heard of that they're about to introduces you to. And then others, it comes from that romantic background where making mixes were just kind of a big part of that dating process," Verocchi said.

Participants who bring a mix of music on a cassette tape are rewarded for their efforts by the San Francisco Mixtape Society.

"Anyone who shows up with a cassette to our event, we actually buy a drink for, but we're not so uppity that all we're looking for is people to bring in cassettes," Verocchi said. "It's more about just making really awesome mixes and then sharing that experience with people right there, in an actual venue instead of just creating something cool and putting it online."

The San Francisco Mixtape Society spoke at a panel at the South By Southwest festival on Saturday, discussing the popularity and impact of mixtapes.