2009 volume 41(6) pages 1309 – 1331

Cite as:
Leyshon A, 2009, "The Software Slump?
: digital music, the democratisation of technology, and the decline of the recording studio sector within the musical economy" Environment and Planning A 41(6) 1309 – 1331
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The Software Slump?: digital music, the democratisation of technology, and the decline of the recording studio sector within the musical economy

Andrew Leyshon

Received 14 December 2007; in revised form 7 November 2008

Abstract. The music industry has been radically transformed by software. As has now been well documented, the development of software formats such as MP3 and the rise of Internet ‘piracy’ have had significant impacts upon intellectual property rights and distribution within the industry, with significant impacts for record companies. This paper explores another part of the musical economy which has also been radically transformed through code, although, to date, this crisis has passed by with very little comment. The paper looks at the recording studio sector and reveals how the introduction of software into the recording process encouraged a vertical disintegration of production in musical agglomerations from the late 1970s onwards and, in so doing, helped leading recording centres to strengthen their hold on the market for recording budgets. However, the impact of software since the mid-1990s has been less benign for such centres. The rise of more affordable digital recording rigs and easier programming protocols represents a democratisation of technology, making available a process that was once accessible only through the facilities and skills provided by a recording studio. Software and code have ushered in a regime of distributed musical creativity, which is having significant impacts on the organisation of the musical economy. As a result, the recording studio sector is undergoing a severe crisis which has produced a spate of studio closures, redundancies, and underemployment within musical agglomerations. As a result, the ‘institutional thickness’ of key recording centres has been significantly depleted in recent years.

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