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(Dis)locating Democratisation: Grime, Digitalisation, and 'The PlayStation Generation'

Harkins, Paul



For many commentators over the last two decades, digitisation represents nothing short of a watershed moment in how music is produced, stored, and consumed. In this paper, I address claims around the democratisation of music making with the advent of virtual studio technologies, digital audio workstations, and mobile apps. Focusing on the genre of grime, I argue that the availability of software like Music 2000 and GarageBand have been instrumental in opening up music making with digital, computer-based, and DAW-type technologies to wider communities, such as impoverished neighbourhoods in East London. They therefore hint at a more inclusive mode of cultural production and a collapse of boundaries between amateur and professional. But, when one accounts for residual inequalities, particularly those related to race, class, and gender, discourses of democratisation still have to be tempered. I therefore strike a cautionary note and call for a precise and critical analysis that asks detailed questions about who is participating in the cultures of music making, how, and under what socio-economic conditions. I finish with a call to move beyond the term democratisation in its normativeand idealised sense to an application that is situated, concrete, and specific to the field of popular music.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name Annual Symposium of Music Scholars in Finland
Start Date May 5, 2021
End Date May 7, 2021
Deposit Date May 7, 2021
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