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: 1010L

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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. It contains 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 The website covers trends in technology. Chase, who has a degree in music therapy, creates playlists for various occasions, including her children's birthdays.

"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."

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. It's 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. She shares it 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."

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. 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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  • erinc-Eic
    11/18/2014 - 11:27 a.m.

    Who: Luke Armstrong

    What: A boy shares with his friends a CD with songs made up of some of his thoughts from the year, then gives them to his friends for a gift.

    When: Around Christmas time

    Where: Travels throughout Central America

    Why: To stay in touch with people and get something for everybody

  • 21jlphal
    11/18/2014 - 12:04 p.m.

    That's sweet, to do that instead of writing out a letter of what has happened. This takes a lot of effort, but writing a letter takes a tiny bit of effort. Yet again, this is very sweet.

  • ce2001sparkle
    11/18/2014 - 01:02 p.m.

    Sharing music instead of buying it gives people more of a taste. It gives people more of a way to express them selves and their opinion on your taste in music.

  • carlosb_sv6
    11/18/2014 - 02:20 p.m.

    Sharing music is better than a store bought gift because gifts from stores can break and never be fixed and you can get bored of it and sharing music wont break any thing.

  • camh-Eic
    11/18/2014 - 03:04 p.m.

    I love music country dubstep rap. But it's AWESOME when you have beats by Dr.dre and see it does take a lot of hard work.

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    11/19/2014 - 12:21 a.m.

    I think this is a good alternative for people who can't give store-bought gifts because they would still have something to give to their friends and family. Especially for people who like listening to music, they get to hear more music. Also, I think sharing music would get a chance to share each other's love for music. They get to express themselves from sharing music. People enjoy the music instead of cheap gifts like sweaters or socks.
    Critical thinking challenge: What makes sharing music better than a store-bought gift?
    Answer: Sharing music is better than a store-bought gift because people actually enjoy the music and they would know that you like music.

  • JB2001Doge
    11/19/2014 - 08:41 a.m.

    Honestly, this is better than buying it, you get to experience what other people like and you might actually like the music. This is really handy if you have no money...

  • jahylaw
    11/19/2014 - 01:20 p.m.

    making your own gifts should be a blessing to them . They should be greatful that they took there time to make it .

  • John0724-YYCA
    11/19/2014 - 08:59 p.m.

    I think that this guy named Luke Maguire Armstrong is a really cool guy because if you noticed that he could choose the songs he like best and put it into one tape ( as I mean tape I mean video tape). I think the another reason he is cool is that he could make a remix of songs which this process makes this cooler song and makes more beats into the song.

  • duckymomo5
    11/20/2014 - 10:48 a.m.

    This is such a great idea for people who express their feelings through music. Some people do believe that music can be more entertaining than a paper card with words in it that someone else wrote. With music, artists and even regular people can say exactly what they want. I really enjoyed this article and it inspired me to give something else to my family and friends for Christmas this year.

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