Home > Education, People, Technology, Uncategorized > Why take the train?

Why take the train?

By Fatter Agnus – Founder, The International Mix Train Collective

Getting your name and sound “out there” has become much easier with the advent of free music hosting platforms and social networking. The drawback is that everyone is doing it. Seasoned professional DJs and teenagers in their bedrooms largely have access to the same promotional tools so standing out from the crowd is harder than ever.  This article will show you one additional trick that will help DJs break into new audiences whole honing their skills in an environment that is less Battle and more Collaboration – The Mix Train.


Old Man, New Rules

This year I will be 37. I put my first mix tape together in the early 90’s using a pair of long-saved-for Soundlab DLP3s. At best, it was 45 minutes of disappointment, a mediocre mix of second rate psy-trance and second hand generic dance floor fodder that even I wasn’t sold on.

Back then I was in the early stages of figuring out what my ‘sound’ was as I transitioned from weekend raver to wannabe-ground breaking DJ.  What was important to me was that I continue to make tapes as proof to myself that I could mix. Mix tapes were also a way for me to solicit feedback from friends and other DJs.  If someone actually liked the mix – well, the World was welcome to stop turning for the afternoon…

Over the next 15 years I became more confident in my sound, started playing a few gigs and developed an addiction for record buying. During that period I must have recorded countless mix tapes and pawned them off onto anyone that would take them.


The New Game

Fast forward too many years and I am now back at it after an 11 year hiatus.  Coming back into the game as a father and software marketing guy has given me a new set of eyes on DJ culture. The 1210s have been replaced by a shiny NI Kontrol S4 and while the vinyl has stayed with me, most of what I play is downloaded from Beatport and the likes.  I seemed to have skipped the entire CD burning phase with mix tapes now being posted and hosted to every cloud and podcast site imaginable.

As a DJ today I now have instant global reach and chucking out tapes has been replaced with social networking and and even search engine optimization.  As a geek and someone who isn’t gearing up to be the next Essential Mix guest, I find the new media  /web 2.0 aspect of being a DJ highly intriguing but for many this is clearly a double-edged sword.  These days publishing  sets might be effortless but with that comes the likelihood of having one’s work quickly drown in an ocean of other mixes . For bedroom DJs without a face-to-face fan base (try saying that a few times)  the challenge is even bigger. The web is exploding with petabytes of DJ sets and breaking out of one’s immediate social circle can be a tough proposition.

You will have no doubt set up a Soundcloud account, podomatic page  or something similar. Your friends and family are likely jumping at the prospect of continued Facebook updates and tweets informing them about your brand new mix.  You may have gone further and set up your own web site, complete with tagging and SEO content that will enable you to be found by search engines.  Wired magazine recently did a piece on an MC who has made the net truly work to his advantage with an article called The Optimized MC

There is however, another avenue that DJs can also take in getting their work into the hands of new listeners…


Mix Trains

Mix trains are simply DJ mix ‘tapes’ (see MP3) that have been produced by a number of DJs working together. Using file hosting services and an array of other on-line tools DJ’s record their slot (maybe 10-15 minutes) and pass the mix on to the next DJ who adds their  own 10-15 minutes to it.  Depending on the intended length of the mix and how long each DJ takes to complete their slot, a mix train can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to complete.  The final mix is often worth the wait.

Playing on a mix train provides the opportunity to engage in new styles and be a part of sets that, by their definition, are far more creative and varied than the traditional mix tape. In many cases, it might well be  the progressive house DJ that blows the roof off the drum and bass set or the Hip Hop DJ that shows everyone what he or she can bring to a straight up techno train.  DJs have commented on  how the mix trains sharpen their skills and exists as a melting pot of styles and creative approaches that provide inspiration for solo projects.

For those looking to increase their exposure as a DJ, mix trains present another significant benefit. The work that you are doing to promote your mix train set is also being replicated by every other DJ on the train.  Mix train organizers will also be working to promote you and your talents in order to grow their project.  A one hour mix train might mean that 6 DJs are promoting a single mix tape and in many cases,  those DJs may well be based in different countries or continents. Also consider the networking opportunities that exist with fellow mix train DJs, radio DJs, promoters, journalists and industry people that are beginning to pay attention to new school, technology-driven creative processes.



To be clear, mix train project are all about bringing talent together to create something that is far greater than the sum of its parts but let’s not ignore the side benefits for the individuals that take part in them.  If you want to get better at what you do and share your work with a broader audience, get on a mix train soon. If you don’t immediately find a train you like, wait a few minutes and three more will come along. Even better, take a chance and get involved with a train style that’s alien to you – you might surprise yourself  with how well you perform.

By becoming an active member of a mix train community you find yourself collaborating with a group of like minded creative individuals, all dedicated to creating great mixes and helping their fellow mix trainers get where they want to go. You’d be silly not to jump on one soon.



If you want to play on an IMTC Mix Train send an internet letter to imtc dot hub at gmail dot com or check out our  Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/MixTrain/213742491976395

Tweet at us: @mixtrain

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