To me, a fanmix is not a soundtrack, in the traditional sense. It's not incidental music that you might hear in the background of a film or an episode of a TV show. It's music that tells a story. It's not that the best mixes tell their own narrative. The best mixes *are* the narrative.
I've been on record (I think here, but definitely on Twitter) saying that a lot of mixes are generated via the 'playback > order > random' option on Foobar (my chosen music player). But that's not the be-all-and-end-all of creating a mix. Yes, there are times when Foobar throws up ten, fifteen, twenty tracks in a row which make me think of a particular fandom/character/pairing/crossover/whate
My process, therefore, usually relates to me having my music library playing. Recognising a trend which could relate to a fandom and if the urge is strong enough, creating a new playlist for it (and seriously, this is one of the reasons why Foobar rocks see?, there's a whole 'drag and drop' facility there that's lacking on other programmes I've seen) and then adding tracks to it as and when they occur to me. (Lately I've also taken to noting down tracks on a whiteboard* when I either don't have them, or the computer's not on (yes, there are occasional times when I switch it off…)
Even then, that's not it. I often have thirty or forty tracks on there, and the average fanmix I publish is 12 tracks. (And yes, I'm really not counting 'run from the darkness in the night' which hasn't been made public as yet and still has managed to reach its fourth CD's worth of tracks…)
I spend days listening to the tracks in sequence. Putting them in order first by musical similarity (and given that there's very few genres I don't listen to, even that's not easy). Then I create a second playlist in Foobar, copy the tracks over and arrange them according to the story I want to tell.
And that, dear reader, is where the real difficulty lies.
And I know, as a mixer, that the story - the narrative, if you will - that I have in my head is rarely going to match the one the listener has. I know that, often, the listener is not even aware of a narrative. I wouldn't be human if I didn't say that it hurts sometimes. I can spend weeks perfecting a mix (in my mind) and that's before I even start on the graphics for it.
Before the fanmixers' bug bit me, I used to occasionally see and sometimes download mixes others made; but honestly I only tended to do so if I recognised at least three of the tracks and liked them. Or if I saw a track I wanted on it that I didn't have (and then, to my shame, I'd bin the rest of the mix without listening and hang onto that one track). I don't do that anymore. Haven't, since I made the first of my own mixes. (It's called 'Paths Crossed' and is tied to a crossover of the Buffyverse and Supernatural. It's also never been published because the narrative is so specific that it makes no sense without a 50,000 word explanation (yes, it was tied to my 2006 NaNoWriMo entry) eta that's apparently not entirely true since it's on fandomsbitca, didn't think I'd shared that one. Huh.</b>end edit</b>).
I don't mind when people look at my mixes and grab them because of one or two tracks. I don't really mind when all they do is look at the graphics (hell, I'm a graphic artist wannabe, how can I not love it when people like what I do?!). But it does hurt a little when people don't recognise there's a lot more to it than putting together 10 or 12 songs that sound good together.