My essay “Digital Downsizing: The Effects of Digital Music Production on Labor” was recently published in the Journal of Popular Music Studies. The preprint version is available without the firewall here. Digital Audio Workstations and Drum Machines increasingly replace highly skilled musician labor.
Music production and reproduction has always been effected by the implementation and adaptation of new technologies. Digital technology works to displace labor in the music industry in two parallel ways. (1) It displaces labor in the manufacture, distribution, and retail of the physical music commodity through transmediation. (2) It reduces the labor required by musicians in the production process. This paper focuses on the latter form of musician labor by looking closely at the effect that digital audio workstations and drum machines have on studio record production. I argue that while technologies are developed to solve practical problems for musicians, the recording industry adopts the same technology to increase profit by eliminating labor.