22 February 2008

The Mix Tape and iTunes

I know I'm dating myself a bit here, but there was a time when friends my age would exchange songs via cassette tape. It was illegal I'm sure, but such a wonderful labor of love. The carefully selected list would exchange hands and then the recipient would spend typically 60 minutes straight listening to each song trying to deduce the "real meaning" for this song being included in the mix. Meanwhile, the giver would also listen to the same songs wondering how the recipient might be enjoying it. As you can imagine this made for some great follow-up discussions. I was reminded of this recently when I found this product from the UK:

Note: the authentic bent label. There are even other styles shown here.

With 64 MB of storage you can get at least 60 minutes of songs for your gift. Very retro. Fun, not terribly sustainable and probably illegal as well, but still pretty cool.

When I saw this I wondered, and not for the first time, "Why doesn't Apple do this kind of thing on iTunes?" They've allowed gifting for a long time, but that's one song or album at a time, not a collection of specially chosen songs. They could send a custom "iCard" or well designed announcement. Going to iTunes would allow you to download the gift list with a special custom cover for the playlist along with custom messages for the whole list and each individual song. What you're selling here is the experience of the music and the gift of listening to each song specially selected for you. There would be a one click "Add to my iPod" once the songs downloaded so you could get going right away. While you listened you could continue to refer to the sender supplied comments for each song on your iPod. As an added bonus, if the person receiving the list, already purchased this song on iTunes, it wouldn't copy down a duplicate song, but just link it into gift playlist with custom text. In this case the cost of the collection would go down by the cost of the duplicate song.

This isn't just about love birds or anniversary collections either. I can see "get well collections" sent, "congratulations you did it!" collections, and even "inspiring songs from a friend that cares" lists being given. I can even see adding a movie or movie rental to the list with the connection of "this movie makes me think of you" or "let's watch this together..." etc.

I suppose every regular Mac user who blogs has to post from time to time, with wishes for Apple to fulfill. I haven't done my fair share of them, so here's my penny in the fountain. I think it would work wonderfully. Come on Apple, give us Mix Tape gifts on iTunes!


Anonymous said...


great idea, and so obvious i find myself smacking my head for not thinking of it too

hope all is well!

Jack said...

I think the ability to share playlists has been around forever: http://www.apple.com/itunes/hottips/#shareplaylists

But you're right on about the nostalgia and personalization. Apple needs to allow custom messages to each song or a custom album cover.

Or last.fm could totally get the jump on them since they already have the rights to stream a lot of full-length tracks (right inside the web page too, no desktop client needed).

David Weiss said...

Excellent point. I had never seen the ability to share a custom playlists. I think having to create a local playlist, then go through the iMix function is a bit hard to discover and maybe that's why I never knew it was possible. I agree with you, however, that they could do so much more to build the experience around this gift giving idea. Thanks for the catch!