The master of mystery: technology, legitimacy and status in audio mastering

Pat O'Grady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the past twenty years, the field of popular music studies has significantly enhanced our understanding of pop music production. Studies have drawn from a range of industry discussions to explore, for example, the ways in which emergent technologies have led to distinctive production techniques and the important role that recording technologies play in shaping the sound of pop music. Whereas many industry discussions have provided productive sites of analysis, they can also obstruct research in some respects. This article focuses on an area of music production where such industrial discussions tend to hinder, rather than enhance, an understanding of its practices. It examines the ways in which industry discussions position the process of mastering as “mysterious.” This article argues representations of mastering as “mysterious” work to reinforce the importance of this practice and also safeguard it from new technologies that might challenge its dominance. These representations can function to reproduce and secure social hierarchies within the field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-164
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Popular Music Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • recording technologies
  • cultural production
  • music production
  • mastering
  • analogue
  • technologies


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