Rethinking Prosumption in Music Production
Over the past 40 years, the relationship between music consumption and production has changed. Recording technologies have become increasingly accessible and, as a result, a plethora of new recording environments have emerged from home studios to phone-based recordings. In 1981, Alvin Toffler coined the term ‘prosumption’ to describe the way consumers began to produce music. Prosumption was characterised by customisable technology and resistance to large-scale studio practices that are often considered necessary to 'legitimate' music production. More recently, studies of prosumption have tended to focus on the role of music in social media practices.
This paper explores whether this understanding of 'prosumption' is still useful in understanding contemporary recording practices that occur outside large studio environments. Over the past decade, large-scale production has further declined and emergent production practices have become dominant. Consequently, ideas central to prosumption, including customization and apparent resistance to large-scale production, have changed too. The paper examines how production contexts – across space, technology, and approaches – have become complex. It asks if the debates are now less convincing. New practices, when considered alongside moves toward social media as a new site of prosumption, suggest that perhaps we need to reconceptualize prosumption as a temporal and transitionary process. As disruptions to the consumer–producer balance normalize, the market is better at providing products that do not need to be customized, and music producers are more inclined to accept this way of working. The paper then contextualizes contemporary music production practices within the challenges of musician labour.
Dr Pat O’Grady is a popular music researcher, educator and practitioner, specialising in music production. He is a Lecturer in Music Technology at The Australian National University. In 2016, Pat was awarded a PhD for his thesis on popular music recording and songwriting practice. He has since published articles in Popular Music and Society, Popular Music, Journal of Popular Music Studies, Creative Industries Journal, Convergence, Continuum, and Perfect Beat. Pat has two decades of professional experience in producing and performing popular music. He is the current treasurer of the Australian/New Zealand branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music.