Mixtape vs Album: What’s the Difference?

Mixtape

Mixtapes and albums are both collections of songs.

Other types of song releases include singles. However, songs are usually released within a group. The difference between these groups (albums, mixtapes, Eps) is the main topic of this article.

Today, all kinds of music are found on the internet.

If you find a song and listen to it, you cannot tell just from the musical quality whether it is a song from a mixtape or an album. However, there are many other indications that can help you determine to which type it belongs and we will discuss them in the following article.

Table of Main Differences Between Mixtape and Album

The following table is an overview of the main differences between mixtapes and albums, originally. Nowadays, some of these have changed.

Features Mixtape Album
Intended Audience Created solely for the fans, to showcase the artist’s skills Created to enter the media world and receive musical recognition
Production Does not require much equipment; anyone can do it Requires a studio and advanced equipment
Release Cost Released for free on the Internet Requires a lot of money to be released on official platforms
Content Freestyle, the focus is on the music Has a story, the focus is on the storyline

One thing that is different now, as mentioned previously, is that an album, while often recorded in a studio with fancy equipment, does not require this equipment.

An artist could have a mini studio at home and it would be enough to create an album.

What Exactly is a Mixtape?

If you check out old Lil Wayne songs, you might realize they don’t actually have a common theme. These songs belonged to mixtapes rather than albums.

In other words, Lil Wayne would not actually go to a record label and record his voice. Instead, he was a rapper who would just freestyle using the instrumentals of other artists.

While this does not really agree with our definition of songs today, the intention of such productions was not to reach the actual official musical industry and receive awards. It was solely to reach out to the fans.

Hence, we can conclude that a mixtape is something of a “street album”. It is not an album.

Like graffiti is street art and cannot be considered an actual part of the art or drawing industry, mixtapes are street albums and cannot be considered an actual part of the music industry.

However, mixtapes can really push a rising artist’s career forward and create immense opportunities if his or her talent is discovered by influential (and financially capable) artists or record labels.

Nowadays, even world-famous singers like Miley Cyrus are struggling to actually sell albums.

The internet has allowed people free access to most songs. When rising artists observe that, they are discouraged from releasing an album as very few people would buy it and the cost of production might exceed the return.

For that reason, they resort to free online distribution. It is an easy and cheap method of becoming known and reaching a diverse audience. That, in turn, paves the way for talented individuals to become artists.

A great example of a successful mixtape that launched the career of its singer is Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap. These rappers are normally born “on the street” and tell their heartbreaking and goosebump-inducing songs via rap.

That is why the public loves this content; they empathize with the artists and strive to support them. Chance the Rapper’s mixtape did not sell a lot of records, but it did earn him a meeting with Justin Bieber and a prominent name in the world of fame.

Other examples include Migos, Young Thug, Kevin Gates, and Kendrick Lamar.

What Exactly is an Album?

Albums are much more complex than mixtapes. They require more time, money, hard work, and content. Albums need to pass specific qualifications in order to reach a wide audience and earn back the money spent on production and profit.

It helps that today’s world has such diverse tastes in music, and anything even remotely relatable is considered epic by at least a portion of music listeners.

Before equipment became as readily available as it is today, artists would have to submit their best work to record labels who may or may not accept it. If they do, the record label would then consider the artist “their” artist; they would get a significant portion of the funds too.

So why would artists go to a record label and go through all that hassle if they could just upload their music on the internet? Nowadays, the latter is actually common, but real albums still make a lot more money than mixtapes.

Among the most important musical awards are the Grammy Awards, MTV Musical Awards, American Music Awards, and the Billboard Music Awards.

Album creators care about their Billboard ranking which mainly depends on how many listeners each song has in its first week or month or so. Famous artists sometimes get away with creating bad music that still ranks high just due to the artist’s popularity and fame.

Therefore, there is a very high level of bias in such ratings. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to check out the highest-ranking songs in the world.

What is an EP and How Does it Differ from Albums and Mixtapes?

EP stands for “extended play”. It is shorter than an album but longer than a single, with around four to seven songs. It is more similar to an album than a mixtape.

You might be wondering why EPs came to exist when they could just be considered relatively short albums. To answer this question, we have to look back on the music industry in the past.

Early on, actual records had limited “space” or “memory”. Each record could hold up to eight minutes on one side and eight on the other.

However, the record would not have a single song, as that too would be a waste. Thus, to conserve disks and precious memory, “albums” were restricted to a small number of songs, where the artist distributed the available time in a single record over his or her songs.

Final Words

With the increasing number of platforms to listen to music (Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube, Anghami, Google Play, etc.) it is becoming easy to access both types of records, whether mixtapes or albums.

Some people have created a hobby of collecting records of their favorite albums and EPs, creating a beautiful, colorful display with valuable and vibrant content.

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