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Mixtapes VS Albums (Compare And Contrast)

Mixtapes VS Albums (Compare And Contrast)

Have you ever found yourself confused about the difference between albums and mixtapes as a music fan?

Mixtapes in the past used to refer to the compilation of songs on a CD, Cassette Tape, that DJs compiled to showcase their choices and skill of music. Today the term mixtape is popular in Hip Hop, also known as non-official albums. Often consists of rap rather than singing. Albums, on the other hand, are more official releases by artists to sell and make money. 

The article will answer what a mixtape is and how it differs from albums. Moreover, why are they popular nowadays? 

What makes a Mixtape?

A mixtape (alternatively called mix tape) is a selection of music, typically from various sources, recorded onto one medium. 

A clear cassette with a flower inside

The origin of mixtape goes back to the 1980s; the term typically describes a homemade compilation of songs onto a CD, cassette tape, or digital playlist.

How many songs are in a Mixtape compared to an Album?

The minimum number is ten songs that you can put on a mixtape while the maximum number is 20. 

However, if the entire song has a duration longer than 3 minutes, the singer might want to consider having around 12 pieces instead of 10. 

What is an Album?

Albums are big projects. They are more organized and based on higher quality that publicized more for sales than mixtapes. 

A vinyl

The release of albums opens so many doors of opportunity for the artist to grow and earn. For new artists, it is a way to:

  • Create your brand loyalty
  • Start touring
  • Make your position in the industry
  • Open op merch
  • Press

The drawback is it is really expensive to make one, plus the time and manpower required to make it successful is another thing. But that’s not the case anymore, thanks to the internet

Creating an album has become more accessible than ever. But the only true artist and singer can come up with the right story and organization that persuade new fans and win the hearts of old ones. 

How are mixtapes, albums, and EP’s different?

As a music fan, you might be aware of the term album but have come across terms mixtapes and EPs that you are unfamiliar with. 

A mixtape refers to a selection of music in one genre, mostly rap or R&B

An album refers to the same project but with higher quality and more organized categories. 

On the other hand, EP is an extended version play and medium-size record. The EP is the continuation of the songs from the official album. 

Mixtapes are inexpensive and often created as a piece of art showing artists’ interests and talents. In contrast, albums are expensive because they have to go through proper launch channels and all. Expectations of fans and media are higher with albums compared to the mixtape. 

Mixtape Vs. Albums: Comparison 

Here’s a quick comparison for you between mixtape and album:

Unofficial release Official and big release
Not for sale/purchase.Sell massively 
Charts on BillBoard Charts on Billboard
the average price for a mixtape track is $10,000.One song could cost from $50 to $500
Mixtape vs Albums


Mixtapes can be based on any music genre, but they have been primarily identified as the hip-hop community.  

A person singing

Previously mixtapes were released as “street albums” and often used to be considered a rarity for a record store, such as Victoria, to carry. Indie artists and underground singers use mixtapes to cross the ladder to reach more audiences—only the mainstream and popular artist-world can release albums because it requires money and manpower. 

Initially, cassette tapes were the primary medium for mixtape music. At that time, fans would record hit songs from the radio and combine them in their own mixtapes packed with songs from their favorite artist. 

Mixtapes have used a guerilla marketing strategy, so more people get familiar with new indie and emerging artist music. 

The classic DJs and underground artists use this concept and create new music over already famous beats and vice versa. 

Then times passed, and more mediums were introduced, such as CD and digital download. 

The mixtape idea remained the convenient one for small artists to introduce themselves out in the world. 

Fast forward in today’s when online streaming is the most used ( probably only used ) medium.

For fans to listen to their favorite artist, online streaming has made things easier for them and more convenient for artists. Promotions using social media platforms have become more beneficial for them. 

Now, mainstream artists can have access to make albums, but small indie and underground artists also do. To be more exact, a big switch happened in the previous year. Many mainstream artists are now releasing mixtapes to introduce not such their official masterpieces. 

No matter who released what, fans are ready to spend money listening to their favorite artist. 

Difference in making

A mixtape doesn’t need more time and effort, but some action is required to make one. The artist should know their music and be into what they are doing.

A DJ's mixer

The mixtape does not mean adding one good song or anything that does not fit together cohesively. 

On the flip side, album making required more effort and time. It always means producing original songs and tracks rather than simply mixing their and others’ project work. 

Artists will only be successful if they can sell their albums on all platforms.

Length of music 

Mixtape tracks are mostly run shorter than those on an album. The reason is the mixtape tracks are not made, keeping in mind the rules of the market and any specific target. 

In the album, you find ten to twelve complete songs-this allows more time to raise listeners’ interest. The overall song length can vary significantly. Mixtapes can also be very long in terms of size. All in all, it mostly depends on the artist’s choice to keep the length as long as he wants.  

Marketing difference

Albums required more promotion than mixtapes because the artist’s goal was to make money off their music. 

They put so much money and effort into their albums that they need people to know it exists!. 

Mixtapes are not sold. They are only available to download or listen to on the online streaming platform. 

Mixtapes are less likely to have official cover art or track. You can sometimes find mixtapes getting sold online, but it is not something that happens very often. 

Watch the video below to learn more:

What’s The Difference Between Mixtape And Album?

Do Mixtapes make money?

Yes, why not!

Why would artists and singers add blood and sweat to create a free masterpiece? Some rappers can even earn serious money. Not on their mixtape, but they can make money individually on every single song in the mixtape. The average price for one track of a mixtape is $10,000

Can a Mixtape chart in Billboard?

Yes, mixtape tracks do get the chart on the Billboard.

Mixtapes are made for creative purposes, mainly not for ranking on charts. They are an excellent way to advertise upcoming albums and singles that need to be publicized more among the masses. Some unrelated projects end up as mixtapes.

Artists usually create mixtapes based on the songs from their albums or pieces from their upcoming projects. This gives fans an idea of what is coming up next. 

Why do rappers call their albums Mixtapes?

Rappers call a project a “mixtape,” “EP,” “playlist,” or a “project”—anything but an “album” to lower the pressure and convey a different set of expectations

They send a signal to fans about new releases but at the same time ease things for themselves by not getting in the pressure tunnel the singer feels once they release albums. 


Technology and the internet have now blurred the line between mixtapes and albums. It’s getting hard to differentiate one from the other.

In short, mixtapes are a compilation of songs made by an artist to showcase their skills in music whereas albums are a more official and monetized version of a mixtape.

However, mixtapes and albums require effort, investment, and hard work. Which one gets more famous depends on the artist’s work, more or less.   

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Click here to see the summarized version between the differences of mixtapes and albums.