No cash for gifts? Share you taste in music instead
No cash for gifts? Share you taste in music instead Heather Browne displays a selection of holiday CDs she has made over the years for friends and listeners of her blog. Music aficionados can personalize their holiday playlists by loading songs onto fun USB drives like this one, at left, that resembles a cassette tape (AP photos)
No cash for gifts? Share you taste in music instead
Lexile: 1140L

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Luke Maguire Armstrong doesn't pen a holiday letter to friends. The guitar player and songwriter prefers to communicate musically.

Armstrong makes a CD that he shares with friends and family each Christmas, containing songs that reflect the places he's visited or how he's felt during the year. He includes a note about how he discovered each song. Recent CDs, for example, have helped tell the stories of his travels throughout Central America.

"I choose the songs that had the most impact on me," said Armstrong, who divides his time between New York and Antigua, Guatemala. "It's a way for me to stay in touch with a lot of people and get everyone something."

Sharing music is a great way to connect with friends, and technology has made it easier than ever, says Kristen Chase, publisher and CEO of, which covers trends in technology. Chase, who has a degree in music therapy, creates playlists for various occasions, including her children's birthdays.

"Because our music preferences are often a window into who we are as people, sharing music is actually sharing a part of ourselves," she said. "It's a way for us to connect with other people and allow them into our lives, which I think is an inherent part of being human."

Or, as Armstrong described it in a holiday letter he sent to friends with the songs in 2011: "To me, music is more than just an entertaining way to pass the time, but (like chocolate covered bananas and Lady Gaga) a way to enrich life a way of reaching further than rigid reality allows."

Music lovers can create and share playlists in a variety of ways, Chase said. She recommends Spotify, a digital music service that provides access to millions of songs. Users can search for songs online to share with friends and family.

For those who prefer creating something more tangible, Chase suggests putting the music on a USB drive. USB drives come in numerous designs and colors. Chase likes the nostalgic feel of ones that look like cassette tapes, which for her conjure up memories of mix tapes in high school.

Adding music to a USB drive is also a way to give a tech gift that has a personal touch. "You can get really creative," she said.

Tyler Hayes, a writer in San Diego, suggests asking friends what website or app they use to listen to music, and sharing a playlist through it. In addition to Spotify, he has shared songs using Beats Music and Rdio.

"I'm always seeking out new music and sharing it especially with people I know who would enjoy it," he said.

Heather Browne of Colorado Springs, Colorado, looks forward every fall to creating a 20-song Christmas/holiday playlist to share with friends, family and readers of her music blog.

"Part of the reason I do them is as a conscious rebellion against the amount of terrible Christmas music out there," she said. "I try to find songs with some sense of nostalgia, some sense of wonder."

Often, the songs aren't holiday music per se, but feel "Christmasy" or "wintery," and reflect how her year went. She pays careful attention to the order of the songs, too.

"That's kind of the fun part of making a mix curating the songs," she said. "I hope that they listen to them in the order I put them in."

Browne shares the list as MP3 files on her blog,, but also burns about two dozen CDs to give away. A friend helps her create cover art for the CD, and anyone who wants to burn a CD of the playlist can also print out the cover art.

"It takes a lot of work," Browne said. "I get wonderful, emotional feedback from people from all around the world that makes it worthwhile."

Critical thinking challenge: What makes sharing music better than a store-bought gift?

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  • NW2000Basketball
    11/18/2014 - 08:41 a.m.

    you can get better recommended music from a friend that's shares it with you rather than from a store gift that someone gives you. Id rather get my music from a friend that listens to the same music I do.

  • TaylorSeifert-Ste
    11/18/2014 - 09:09 a.m.

    I love this idea. I feel like things don't really matter but people and art or music that they create do. Music is a big part of my life and being able to share it or discover new kinds that I like it always awesome. I hope this becomes a new trend.

    11/18/2014 - 01:03 p.m.

    Well I personally would like music better than store-bought gifts because I love music. I listen to it everyday, whether it's when I'm doing my homework, or when I'm bored, or even when I fall asleep. I can listen to music at any time.

  • IM2000food
    11/18/2014 - 01:07 p.m.

    sharing music is better than a store bought gift because you make more of a connection with friends when you share music also technology is so advanced that more people chose to get a electronic version

  • ratiaira
    11/18/2014 - 01:56 p.m.

    That is amazing because i absolutely love music and whats better than gifts obviously music its a great idea they should definitely do this i hope people love music as much as i do

  • ValerieF-Bri
    11/18/2014 - 02:57 p.m.

    I really like this idea, as learning people's taste in music is often a better method of understanding them than just talking to them. It also makes for a very heartfelt gift- one that will not be forgotten for a long time.

  • DavidXu-Bri
    11/18/2014 - 03:01 p.m.

    Critical thinking challenge: Unlike store-bought gifts, sharing music is a personalized exercise. One must put effort in considering which songs to include, and thus the collection itself is unique, tailored to the receiver of the gift. Because of this personalization, the sharing of music often bears a sense of "closeness" that a store-bought gift would lack. One gets the sense that the gift-giver was not acting out of an implicit obedience to social rules, but rather genuinely had the intent of offering a gift. Thus, sharing music is often superior to giving a store-bought gift.

  • MichaelRA-Bri
    11/18/2014 - 03:01 p.m.

    i thought that story was kinda intresting i wasnt really blown away with what she was talking about because to me it was kinda something that people who are really interested in making music would really enjoy reading and learning about it. but since i don't want to make music i rather read something that is more my kind of intresting like making movies or making video games that is something that i would really like to read about .

  • BlaineT-Bri
    11/18/2014 - 03:05 p.m.

    I believe sharing music now a days is better than a store bought gift because you can access them anywhere. Like Spotify in the article is a great way to find and share great music because its very accessible on many devices such as Mac, iPhone, iPods, iPads, and android; Its also a really convenient way of sharing and listening to music. Back in the day people shared music on cassette tape's or Cd's, not on spotify or any other sharing service. Plus services like spotify save money because you can practically share songs for free.

  • BradleyJ-Bri
    11/18/2014 - 03:07 p.m.

    Music is better than a store bought gift because music comes from the heart and you took time and consideration to make a song for a loved one.

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