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DAW democracy? The dearth of diversity in ‘Playing the Studio’

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In theory anyone with a computer, tablet, or smartphone can ‘play the studio’, but is this reality or rhetoric? The putative democratization of recording technology is tethered to a basic economic argument – affordability equals access – while analyses of the sociocultural conditions of this mode of music making have been largely overlooked. Considering that playing the studio is an elemental practice in the making of many popular musics, the implications of this inquiry are relevant to all dwellers on the delta of where music, technology and education meet. First, I provide a concise history of the concept of playing the studio to frame the subsequent discussion on diversity in this practice, particularly as it relates to gender. Second, I report findings from a survey I conducted in New York City on playing the studio, which confirm this practice is predominantly the preserve of white, male guitarists. The dearth of women in the sample (11%) serves to elucidate the reality that the supposed ‘democratization’ of music making ushered in by the DAW has not actually occurred. Third, I contextualize these findings with a discussion on related research to affirm that the underrepresentation of women in playing the studio is consistent with the history of recording studio culture, and more broadly with Bourdieu’s notion of ‘masculine domination’ (2001). In conclusion, I suggest that in order to de-gender the masculine/feminine binary implicit in software and hardware for music production, educators and students alike need to infiltrate the design process and be active agents in the development of the technologies they will use to make music.
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Keywords: audio engineering; digital audio workstation; gender; home recording; masculine domination; project studio

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Montclair State University

Publication date: July 1, 2015

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  • The Journal of Music, Technology and Education (JMTE) explores the issues concerning the use of technology in music education. It examines pedagogy at all levels and across genres such as composition, musicology, performance and music production. It is the only journal specifically dedicated to the educational aspects of music technology and the technological aspects of music. Peer-reviewed, with an international editorial board, JMTE aims to draw its contributions from a broad community of educators, researchers and practitioners who are working closely with new technologies in the fields of music education and music technology education.
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