Apple filed a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Thursday for a new feature in Apple Music which would allow users to gift "personalized albums" to one another, as reported by Business Insider.
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Note that mixtapes in this context refer to the compilation tapes and CDs people (used to) gift to one another, not the quasi-albums hip hop artists frequently release.
Mixtapes like these are one of the most deeply personal gifts someone can give, Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone editor, said in his book Love Is A Mix Tape:
"The times you lived through, the people you shared those times with — nothing brings it all to life like an old mix tape. It does a better job of storing up memories than actual brain tissue can do. Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together, and they can add up to the story of a life."
Apple's patent application notes that this personal connection has been somewhat lost in the move to a digital world for music consumption. Apple's patent application notes that this personal connection has been somewhat lost in the move to a digital world for music consumption. The new feature would allow users to send mixed-media "personalized" albums as a gift, complete with an accompanying note.
Users can even specify if they want the full track-list revealed to the receiver upon receipt, or if they want it to remain hidden until each track is played, just like on an old cassette.
Seeing as its only a patent application, it's unclear if mixtapes will become a feature of Apple Music or iTunes, but it's not too far removed from some of the features its already offering. Apple surprised everyone with its live, human-curated radio station Beats 1, which has since proven to be one of its best received features.
Mixtapes seem to take a similar approach to Beats 1 in repackaging an old format for the modern era.
Interestingly, the patent application says the the sender "can be charged a fee for gifting the personalized album," but not that they will be charged. One would have to imagine that if the sender and recipient were both Apple Music subscribers, there would be no charges incurred.
You might be wondering "how is this any different from just sharing playlists?" In reality, it isn't. Apple seems to be placing more emphasis on the gesture of gifting over simply sharing music, which isn't functionally different, but feels different.
Apple Vice President Eddy Cue told Mashable in June that offering users a more personal connection to music is what sets Apple Music apart from its competitors. Mixtapes wouldn't be a make-or-break feature of Apple Music, but small features like this will add value to the service as a whole.