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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Assigned 9 times

  • RileyE-Bri
    11/18/2014 - 04:29 p.m.

    Sharing music is better because it can make your friends and family feel a certain way that physical gifts cant do. Music can show emotions and feelings for someone or something.

  • CesarA-Bri
    11/18/2014 - 04:32 p.m.

    Sharing music is better than store bought gift because some song may remind of someone who were important, missed lot, or just wanted to express their feeling. Other time the music you gotten in the store and someone like friends or family member could had the same taste of music as you would want it.

  • JoeyH-Bri
    11/18/2014 - 04:34 p.m.

    Buying a store bought gift is less personal while making a CD with songs that reflect your year is more creative, fun and takes some time rather than just buying a gift at a store.

  • CameronJ-Bri
    11/18/2014 - 04:37 p.m.

    If you want to share music with people, it is better to do it online or download it because you can share it with a lot more people than you could with CD. Music is also better than any store bought gift because sharing music with someone can be a way of re-living past experiences with friends and family.

  • brettl-Bea
    11/19/2014 - 02:38 p.m.

    Reading this article hit home for me. I love sharing music with friends, and I also made five mixed CD's last night for Christmas. I use Spotify regularly, and I am able to find and share new music as well as music from the past with everyone. Finding songs that define personality for people is a great feeling, and I really enjoy seeing everyone's personal taste in music and how it can define their interests.

  • savannahs-Bea
    11/19/2014 - 02:44 p.m.

    This article was one of my favorites, I believe sharing music is a wonderful gift. To tell stories through music you love, or music you wrote yourself is something everyone can enjoy. This should b run on, sense of last sentence

  • 3WillS
    11/20/2014 - 01:05 p.m.

    I think sharing music is better than a store-bought gift. It conveys more emotion. It can bring more of a nostalgic feeling. It can be more sentimental than a store-bought gifts. Store-bought gives you happiness for awhile, but music brings you happiness for a lifetime.

  • 9thomasr
    11/20/2014 - 02:43 p.m.

    i think this is awesome because this is a good way to express your song. this is a good way to talk to people in song.these is a very cool and fun way to spend time with your friends.

  • 8ethanr
    11/20/2014 - 05:03 p.m.

    Sharing music can be shared a lot easier with this device the device can be used to download your own music to. people asked others what website do they use

  • shannons-Koc
    11/25/2014 - 10:15 p.m.

    Sharing the gift of music is the best gift to give considering everyone is a fan of music. Giving a gift like this shows more effort and meaning in your present. This is something you can't just pick up from the store. This is a very heartfelt present that I wish I could receive. Music has the power to bring delight to anyone feeling sorrow, and around the holiday time that is the perfect present to give!

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