"The Pro Tooling of the World": digital music production, democracy and environmentality

Brent Keogh, Ian Collinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The “Pro Tooling” of the world and the democratization of recording technologies, made possible by the affordances of the internet and technological innovation, have been praised for the ways in which prohibitively expensive production tools have been made available to anyone with an internet connection and a laptop. The echoes of a utopian, perhaps even Marxian, tune can be heard in the positivist accounts of the affordances of such technologies: finally, the means of production have been made available to the masses. And not only the means of production, but also dissemination: one can use a “free” digital audio workstation (DAW), download a multitude of “free” plug-ins emulating expensive analogue and digital gear of the past, and upload their song to SoundCloud or a number of different streaming services for consumption by anyone around the globe with an internet connection. However, the overly positivist accounts of the democratization of recording technologies often obscures the anxieties concerning the material conditions and environmentality of these newer technological forms.
The digital realm is often (mistakenly) set against the material, a realm of infinite creative and even political possibilities. However, the digital realm is thoroughly material, and inherently dependent on material resources. The explosion in music production made possible through the development of digital technologies disseminated as affordable commodities, has also produced deplorable social and environmental conditions that significantly undermine any utopian narrative. This article thus critically examines the environmentality of contemporary music production technologies and argues for the vital relevance of an ecomusicological approach to all stages of the production process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-68
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of World Popular Music
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2020


  • music production
  • recording
  • ecomusicology
  • Pro Tools


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