Fanmixes can also accompany a fanwork, as when a fic writer puts up a soundtrack alongside their story. Often fanmixes come with Photoshop cover art and/or creative titles. Some fanmix creators will specify that the fanmix should be played in order, in order to tell a story with the progression of songs; others will group together songs thematically, but without a particular order.
In the past, some fanmixes have been shared on tape, such as the soundtrack tape that came with the Miami Vice zine Crockett-Dial #6 (1996). They moved online with the advent of the internet, and are now typically created on websites that offer a wide selection of music that can be curated into playlists, such as Spotify, 8tracks (a major site of fanmix creation since its launch in 2008) and YouTube, and shared on social platforms like LiveJournal and Tumblr. An advantage of this is that fanmix creators can choose from a wider variety of songs without needing to own them, but they are also more easily lost if the platform goes down (such as with the increased instability and eventual closure of 8tracks).
The subjects of any given fanmix vary as much as any other fanwork, even within the same fandom. Typically, a fanmix will focus on a character, a pairing or relationship, another fanwork, or some element of the setting or themes of a fannish source text.
Character and ship fanmixes sometimes focus on a fan's interpretation of the character, while some are also using music to tell the story of an established fannish trope, like genderbending or Coffee Shop AUs. Some fanmixes do not focus on a particular character or topic and instead take a broader approach, but one that is still thematically linked to a fandom. The Star Trek fandom, for example, has some digital fanmixes focused on the themes of exploration espoused in the franchise. The Harry Potter fandom has a very significant trend of fans making fanmixes to match a particular Hogwarts House.
An Example of the Changing Meaning of Vocabulary
In the late 1970s and the 1980s, fanmixes were often referred to as "song tapes", "songtapes", or "mix tapes"; be aware that for a decade or so, VCR vids were also referred to as song tapes. In the 2010s, with the rise of new ways to create song lists online such as 8tracks and Spotify, the term "8tracks" has become synonymous with a fanmix in fandom, and the more general "playlist" can also be used.
The Evolution of Platforms & Media
The media used to create fanmixes have evolved as audio technology has evolved, beginning with cassette tapes and progressing to CDs, MP3s and eventually digital file formats. With the advent of widespread free (or subscription-based) music streaming online, fanmixes shifted to websites like Spotify, Youtube, Soundcloud and 8tracks, which has become the de facto home of fanmixes since its launch in 2008.
However, the age of streaming websites has made fanmix preservation more precarious, as their existence is directly tied to the platform remaining online, and they are difficult to archive. This was starkly illustrated by the abrupt closure of 8tracks in 2019, with many fans struggling to save thousands of fanmixes before the site went offline (see Attempts to save fandom playlists). 8tracks has since relaunched, but is currently only available to users in the United States. Because of these issues, it is increasingly commonplace for fanmix creators to share their mixes across multiple platforms (such as Spotify and 8tracks and Playmoss, or 8tracks and Youtube).
Fans typically share their fanmixes in online communities and social networks, with a link to download or stream the mix. The LiveJournal community fanmix was very active in the 2000s and 2010s. Fanmix creators post direct download links to each mix and associated cover art. The community also allows 'genmixes' (general mixes) that are not fandom-specific. While still technically active, the community has been less active since fandom began migrating to Tumblr in the early 2010s.
Tumblr took over from LiveJournal as the major site for sharing fanmixes as fandom activity shifted there in the 2010s, and fans began creating fandom-specific fanmix communities such as whatfanmix (a Homestuck fanmix directory) and supernatural-fanmixes. Some panfandom Tumblr fanmix communities include fanmixes, fanmixesmostly and fuckyeahfanmixes. Fans also use Twitter and Pinterest to share fanmixes.
"Songtapes": Some Early Comments by Fans
- (1980) "Alot of people seem to associate certain songs with the men, their relationships, episodes, zine stories. I have always thought of 'Thank You for Being My Friend' as foremost. I know a lot of others that fit certain times in their lives, including the one mentioned in Australia, 'Sometimes When We Touch'. Can we make a list of songs that seem to fit the S&H world?" 
- (1980) "How about sending a two hour music tape around and get most of them? Then, someone with a good tape recorder can make tapes for others?" 
- (1980) "Would anyone else like to contribute songs to my 2-hour round robin tape which is collecting S&H related songs? When filled, I'll make tapes of the whole thing for anyone who wants them. Send me a note or card to let me know if you have songs to add, and I'll send you a tape." 
- (1989) "Any words that aren't quite right, I apologize, but it is the result of listening to the record and taking my best guess." 
- (1989) "Regarding the songtapes -- a good third of my stories come from songs: sometimes just the melody, sometimes just the title." 
- (1990) "I love songtapes, especially with the words written out." 
Essay On Fanmix AttributesPosted at Fail-Fandomanon. The originating post is quoted below:
From either a maker or an appreciator's perspective.
What do you like in fanmixes? What turns you off? What advice do you have for people who make fanmixes?
I think I have four main rules, though both of them have exceptions.
1. Don't use mainstream songs/songs with a lot of cultural baggage, unless they're deeply relevant to the show itself. Honestly, no matter how appropriate you think it is, Rihanna's Love the Way you Lie is probably not going to convey to a listener the deep and meaningful relationship that, IDK, Steve and Tony have. Because your listener's first response will be "Oh hey, this totally overplayed Rihanna song that I like. Man this is a great song" and not "Oh this tune/this feeling/these lyrics fit really well with X or Y." AMVs have more scope with this rule. If you saw an AMV using a current pop song and thought it fit your fanmix perfectly, take a moment to remember that the AMV can literally match the words and visuals, reinforcing their connection. You can't do that in a fanmix, so the lyrics have to stand alone. And because they're overplayed, mainstream songs are saturated with excess meaning, interfering with your goal. Staying away from mainstream music gives you more scope to interpret the music. And it doesn't have to mean "obscure for the sake of it". It's fine to use Leonard Cohen, if he suits, but how about checking out something like Alexandra Leaving instead of Hallelujah?
The exception to this is if there's a song that's famous but also super relevant to the show. I haven't seen Life on Mars, but using the David Bowie song those lyrics come from (or an interesting remix, maybe), might be exactly what your fanmix needs.
2. Think about genre. This is super important. If you're making an ASOIAF fanmix, R&B is probably not the way to go. The tone won't mesh well with the tone of the books it reflects. You can't just throw in any song you like. Of course, the reverse can work equally well if you've thought about it. Like if you want to make a Dany fanmix (to keep to the ASOIAF theme), you could choose punk and post punk bands with female singers, to capture Dany's rebellion against the gender norms of her society. If that was what you wanted to say about her, then you can find a genre whose ideals reinforce your message.
If you don't use genre for theme, use it for character. What kind of genre "feels" like your character? Is Thor best represented by Jungle, or by Electronica? How can you reinforce who he is? If you're making a famix for a ship, or a fanmix that represents several viewpoints, try to mix the genres so that they mesh and contrast interestingly. Not all your songs should sound the same, but there should be common details, whether it's scratchy violins or a word that turns up in the lyrics.
3. Fanmixes without lyrics are harder than fanmixes with lyrics, fanmixes in a language your target audience doesn't speak are harder than fanmixes in the target language, and classical fanmixes are only for experts. Lyrics carry a lot of weight in songs, and while the emotional content is number one, it's much easier to connect your song to a character if you have a line that sounds perfect for them. Lyricless fanmixes are beautiful and special, but they are harder. Keep it in mind.
Classical fanmixes are harder again. Unless you know a lot about classical music, you're likely going to lean towards the stereotypical, and the rule about mainstream music having prior associations will be multiplied by a thousand. Stay away unless you know exactly what you're doing.
4. Your fanmix should work as an album, not just as a list of songs. You can have the perfect song for a moment, but if it's horribly out of place amongst the other songs, your fanmix will fall apart. Sometimes you have to sacrifice that perfect line for overall cohesiveness. (And then make another fanmix built around that perfect line XD.)These are guidelines and opinions, but I think they're pretty good ones.
- in love with you // apartment 42 - an MSR fanmix
- especially one of you - a Gillovny fanmix
- red, white & royal blue by Victoria Oms - a playlist and fanmix for the novel Red, White & Royal Blue
- there is a light that never goes out by sophelstein - a Zuko-centric fanmix
- The Truth on the Road fanmix is a set of songs--12 from Dasha K., 12 from Adrienne--that represent Mulder and Scully, their relationship, and/or the path they travelled during our interactive fic story Truth on the Road.
- I HOPE YOU EXPIRE - An 13 various electronic type music playlist for Mr. Scratch of Alan Wake
- happy together by gayhepburn - a Bucky/Natasha fanmix with a Soulmates AU theme
- pondering mysterious lights overhead by priince - a Welcome to Night Vale fanmix
- ...and we watch it fall by reh-sa - a Captive Prince fanmix
- Or Perhaps In Slytherin by dornröschens - "A Classical/Instrumental playlist for the Cunning"
- Mistakes of Our Hearts by Ирина Афутина - a Hannibal Fanmix
- Good Omens fanmix by JanePotter06
- Trinity Universe: The HYDRA Years is a fanmix that serves as a prequel to the MCU fanfic The Trinity Universe.
The Magic Of Us (2010) back cover, a tracklist of all the songs of this fanmix
Tracklist for the Bright Lights of Disturbia mix (2010)
- fanmixes: "Let's talk music!"; Archive, post by marginaliana at Fanthropology, July 15, 2007
- The Death and Resurrection of the Fanmix by Y YENRADECKI , Novmeber 1st, 2017, hypable.com
- Post tagged with #fanmix on tumblr
- Search result for fanmix on Soundcloud
- Playlist with fanmixes on YouTube
- Works tagged fanmix on Archive of our Own
- Fanmixfest: a Dreamwidth community where fans create fanmixes based on prompts or a general theme
- For example, this 8tracks search shows a handful of results for Female Bruce Wayne or this search, shows 40 results for Coffee Shop AU.
- Mix Tape
- Editor's Note: For example "I'm going to make an 8tracks for my favorite character" automatically is understood as someone making a mixtape or playlist for that character, though with the connotation that it will shared via the website 8tracks. (Patchlamb, 11/9/2020)
- S and H #6 (January 1980)
- S and H #9 (April 1980)
- from S and H #6 (December 1980)
- a reminder that before the internet, access to song lyrics was time-consuming and fraught with error, Cold Fish and Stale Chips #1 (1989)
- from Cold Fish and Stale Chips #2 (1989)
- from Cold Fish and Stale Chips #5 (1990)
- "Let's talk fanmixes" thread at Fail-Fandomanon, 12-13 Dec 2011. (Accessed 20 Dec 2011)
- Playlist for the Trinity Universe: The HYDRA Years has creator's commentary and a list of the songs. The fanfiction is available on AO3. (Link to Volition, part two of The Trinity Universe).