Culture | Just like the 90s at 90.3FM

CKUT mixes up music-listening with new website initiative

For all who deem the technologies of pre-digitized life archaic: at the very least, do not doubt the lasting power of the mixtape. The newly-launched website gives students the opportunity to publish and stream their own mixtapes in a public forum. The site is a CKUT – McGill’s independent radio station– initiative, and is aimed at McGill students and CKUT members.

Tim Beeler, a McGill U2 Arts student and CKUT’s campus events coordinator, explained the premise of the site in an interview with The Daily. “It’s a brand new – wildly new – paint-still-fresh website that allows students to upload mixtapes. You use a basic program like Audacity or Garage Band and you make a mixtape. It’s basically like the same constraints of making an old-fashioned mixtape (with a real tape) in that you can’t skip through tracks. You listen to the whole thing, so it kind of brings back the art of making a mix.”

Niko Block, now in his third year as an undergraduate student representative on CKUT’s board of directors, developed the site with the help of some staff members and students. He explained how the idea for Campus Mixtapes arose. “We’d had this idea kicking around for a while of having sort of an ulterior radio station online.” Block cited inspiration from, a similar style of website that publishes a set of 10 mixtapes at time. It is “very simple and it’s streamable. It’s really slick and highly accessible,” said Block. However, it doesn’t let users upload their own mixtapes. Unlike The Mixtape Club, Campus Mixtapes, is “a website where students will be able to upload any sort of audio mixtape that they’ve made,” Block said. For example, “if you take a bunch of tracks that you mix into a playlist or something like that, and you stitch them into a single mp3 using a program like Audacity, you can just upload it onto your profile.” Anybody with an active McGill email address or who is a member of CKUT can create a profile on the site.

Campus Mixtapes will hopefully bridge the gap between the McGill community and that of CKUT, groups that Block perceives are too often disconnected. “It’s a really consistent problem for CKUT when it comes to the question of reaching out to the mainline of the McGill student body… There are a lot of students who already do volunteer at CKUT or know about CKUT just because they’re sort of in the scene of going out to music shows. Unfortunately, however, “there’s also a lot of students who aren’t really up on that scene quite as much, and who just don’t listen to CKUT,” Block explained. It’s ironic, Block added, that CKUT is one McGill’s primary avenues for representation to the Montreal community, even though so few McGill students are actually involved. Block hopes that Campus Mixtapes will ultimately bring students more into the fold of CKUT, an organization he feels, “has so much to offer students.”

The website also offers a good place for amateurs interested in a range of related productions to starts off. “We definitely wanted a way to bring McGill students into experimentation with audio,” explained Block. He hopes that students “know what kind of opportunities are available at CKUT, particularly in terms of the fact that, whether you’re a journalist or a pundit, you’re interested in audio, or if you’re a band, CKUT offers opportunities specifically to McGill students to get on the air. It’s it’s played a huge role in building the careers of McGill students who have gone on to become fairly successful, including Grimes and Arcade Fire.” Certainly, site users are experimenting with more than just music. “You can do some fun things,” explained Beeler, “a couple of the mixes on there are mash-ups, and you can talk in between the tracks.”

“The way that people receive music is such a big part of music-listening culture, and this is a way for people to kind of creatively express their interactions with music that they really enjoy,” noted Beeler. Most importantly, it’s a lot of fun. “You start doing it and it’s just wildly addictive. I made one last night, I was up till like 3 a.m. making one and I already started another one in class. Don’t tell my prof.”

The mixtape holds a unique value that much of our generation – and certainly future ones that are likely to fall further away from outmoded technologies – don’t really know. Beeler explained how “a mixtape is more than just a track list. You kind of have to listen to it as a whole product… It’s got the same appeal of a record in that you have to do some dedicated listening. You sit down and put on a mixtape instead of just skipping through your iTunes.” But, the mixtape is versatile and has a more casual use, too. “If you’re working on something, you can just, you know, throw a mixtape on,” Block pointed out.

Beeler summarized with a sentiment similar to Block’s, expressing that this project is great for engaging students and creating connections on campus and in the greater Montreal community. As Beeler enthused, “Campus Mixtapes is a great part of a larger initiative from groups like CKUT and Midnight Kitchen to accentuate the fact that McGill is a student community. There’s a lot to be gained from students interacting and sharing with each other – sharing knowledge, and sharing music, and sharing fucking awesome mixtapes.”