Making a mix cd for me is a very important artform. It is a way I can express my musical tastes in terms of my relationship to another person and their musical tastes. I have many self-imposed rules that are often changing and I try to add and break my rules as often as possible. I often think of the line from High Fidelity where Rob is making the mix cd for Laura. He says something about how it is a delicate thing because you are using someone else's art to express your feelings. I also take that very seriously.
You've got to really catch their attention in the first song. Maybe even bring it up a notch in the second song. Third song I like to switch it up a bit. Like Rob says, you don't want to blow you load to quickly. A mix CD is all about the momentum, one false move and you can ruin the entire flow. Even if you have all the right songs you can still ruin it by putting them in the incorrect order. I like to try to make the end of one song flow into the next song. Another technique is to abruptly switch to something with a different tempo or loudness, that helps to keep people's attention.
The most important songs are the first and last song in my opinion. When first coming up with the idea for a compilation I pick the first and last songs pretty close to the beginning, that's how I define the rest of the CD. Sometimes I like to have a strong dichotomy, totally switch it up half way through just like a Stanley Kubrick film.
I like to always try to challenge the listener. I first must know what kind of music they like and what the person is like. I choose several artists that may be somewhat similar to the ones they already listen to. Then I try to throw in some stuff that may be in the same ballbark that I think is really good that they may like to try.
Another important thing is the theme. I often like to have a cohesive theme throughout the compilation, sometimes only loosely followed. Sometimes I first choose a song on its title and see if it will fit into the sound I'm going for, if it does that's a bonus. Also, lyrical content themes are important.
A very important thing to me is the coolness factor. Using older and more obscure material is a bonus if it fits. Putting artists the listener has never heard adds to the exotic nature of receiving the compilation. I try not to put anything on the compilation the listener may already own or have heard often. I also like to try to shock the listener if possible with something weird or unusual.
Recently I've got into just putting excerpts from certain songs that are too long and just have a certain part I want to include into the mix. This helps to tighten up the mix and take out extra stuff that could lose the listener's interest. It can also be cool to take short excerpts from TV shows or movies and use them as segues, this can really help to add to the personal nature.
I will write more about mix cds later when I think of more...