I was born in the late ‘80s and grew up in the ‘90s and early aughts. In those days, there were no music streaming services, no iTunes or Spotify. We bought an artist’s cassette tapes when we could, or we sat by the radio waiting for our favorite songs to play so we could record them.
Later on, cassette tapes were replaced with CDs and we had prized CD collections that we carried around in CD binders. Eventually, technology evolved to the point that we could rip each other’s CDs and some people used services like Napster and LimeWire to download music for free – I plead the fifth on that one.
Because it was a lot more difficult back then to find and collect music, the art of making a mix tape or CD for another person was truly a labor of love. Personally, making music mixes became a way that showed people they’re important to me. There are only a handful of people I’ve made mixes for, and only a few of those I made original CD artwork for. These people should count themselves lucky because I am a world-class mix maker.
There are several rules I adhere to when making a mix CD:
- Have a theme. Ideally, a good mix will have a theme or an underlying message being communicated. Occasionally you might make a mix of “songs I think you’ll like,” but those are less exciting. I have made CDs for friendship, new love, breaking up, apologizing, introducing myself, and more. Once I even made a mix where the song titles form a complete sentence. Brilliant, I know. The one I’m sharing today is the mix I made for my sister while she was pregnant with her first child.
- Song choice matters. It can be tempting to just Google “best songs about motherhood” and slap a mix together. But trust me, taking the time to carefully consider each song – the sound, the message, how meaningful it is to you, or to the other person – really elevates your mix game. You should be able to say, “I chose this song because…” and finish with something thoughtful, for every song on the playlist.
- Song arrangement matters. Songs should be arranged in a deliberate way. Personally, my favorite arrangement is to have a big, powerful beginning, a steady, yet variable middle, and either a powerful or emotional ending. I also think it’s important to make sure no two back-to-back songs are too alike. Sometimes I have alternated male and female singers, and sometimes it’s more about varying the style and tempo of the music. However you do it, you want each song to be different from the last and for the whole album to hold your target’s attention. Make sure to listen to your mix several times, preferably in the car. You’ll get a good sense of if your tracks are arranged well.
- Keep it brief. The mix should be around an hour. Any longer than that and people tune out or simply don’t get to the end. An hour could be 11 songs or 15, it depends.
- A tangible product and packaging matters. I will never make a playlist on Spotify and send it to someone, I’ll always give them an actual CD. Otherwise it loses about 68% of its magic. You should always give your mix a name. Make sure you provide a track list, so your target can identify their favorite songs. If you really want to be a 5-star, 5-diamond mix maker, make original artwork for the CD. Here is a sampling of mine:
Now that you understand the amount of effort I put into making a mix CD, you can imagine what it took to come up with a perfect New Mom Playlist for my sister and her first baby. How do you adequately capture the joy of being a mother for the first time? I worked on it for months. I’m pleased with it and I certainly hope it was special to my sister.
For your consideration, and without further ado, here’s my New Mom Playlist*:
*Note: I am not sharing the name of the playlist and I have omitted a couple of songs because they contained the name of my sister and/or her daughter.
I’d love to hear your favorite new mom songs! Share them in the comments below.