With this piece, I officially declare myself a freelancer.
Annie Lin talks fast, and flaps her hands around while doing it. This could be the gravy boat of coffee in front of her, but it seems natural. Only in San Francisco could she comfortably have a bowl of minestrone soup and coffee for dinner on an evening in July.
Lin has just moved to Potrero Hill, but it’s not the first move she’s made in her lifetime. “I knew John when I lived back in New York,” says Lin. “It’s funny; the two of us are not only from New York, not only from Brooklyn, but from Williamsburg.”
She’s talking about John Verrochi, her co-founder of the San Francisco Mixtape Society. San Francisco Mixtape Society is a bi-monthly meeting at the Makeout Room for mix-making enthusiasts in the Bay Area. Many have tried to install similar events in the Bay Area in the past—there’s a cautionary tale going around of a former mixtape event in San Francisco that required participants to arrive armed with enough copies of their mix for the entire group—but Lin and Verrochi’s SFMTS has been the only Bay Area mixtape-trading event to actually work.
In 2008, both she and her friend John Verocchi happened to find jobs in the Bay Area around the same time. Having frequented an NYC event called Fixtape together, they decided to import the mixtape party to their new home.
“I don’t know if this ever would have happened if it weren’t for the two of us,” says Verrochi. “She was all about it; I was all about it. We just wanted to do it and we did it. We never really had a business model.”
Though based on its East Coast predecessor, San Francisco Mixtape Society feels uniquely San Franciscan: It has all the community and come-as-you-are vibes of a classic Haight-Street collective, but the precise organization and engineering of a Silicon Valley startup.
At the July 11th meeting, the theme is “Foreign vs. Familiar.” It’s a small crowd compared to the explosive turnout for the inaugural event in February this year, and the stormy Easter Sunday meeting drew a soggy but sizable crew. This time it’s a scant 40 or so, but they are no less enthusiastic. Prizes are given for audience’s favorite playlist, judge’s choice, and best artwork, which, this time, goes to a woman who has encased her disc in a globe. And they’ve put a new rule into effect: Anyone who brings a mixtape—a mix on an actual audio tape—gets a drink ticket.
It’s no wonder that interested parties from across the country are reaching out to them, asking how they can start their own branch of SFMTS. Groups from Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle have all come knocking, asking if they can start spin-offs in their home cities. The press is heralding SFMTS’ success as evidence of a renewed interest in the art of the mix. Even rumors of a possible book deal are in the air.
Verrochi isn’t ready to start thinking about that just yet. “Besides getting the website in order, I’d simply be happy if we were still around a year from now.”
“I feel like it’s harder to talk to people out here,” says Lin. “The good thing about Mixtape is that it’s a music event you can talk to people at. A show is a common first date, but you can’t really get to know someone while you’re watching a band.
“That’s my dream. I’d love to hear that two people traded mixes and then later hooked up, all because of our event.”