HomeStudio worlds and world studios: the sound factories of the Global South

HomeStudio worlds and world studios: the sound factories of the Global South

Studio worlds and world studios: the sound factories of the Global South

Mondes des studios et studios du monde : les fabriques sonores du Sud global

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Published on Wednesday, September 21, 2022 by Lucie Choupaut


This call for papers for Volume! (the French journal of popular music studies) is open to contributions that encourage an open disciplinary dialogue, ranging from the socioeconomics of symbolic goods to ethnomusicology, with an emphasis on ethnographic materials, studies on the genesis and structure of local sound production fields, or analyses of individual or collective trajectories of professionals in a diversely globalized space.



The status of the producer and of the sound engineer have progressively been granted forms of artistic recognition in the various fields of phonographic production, especially since the advent of psychedelic and electronic music aesthetics. The reshaping of the boundaries between “amateurs” and “professionals», as well as the new standards and (digital) spaces of artistic communication have more recently provided an opportunity to see – as never before and from a variety of angles – the musical work in its many different states of development, even in a multiplicity of versions.

In spite of these new representations within the public sphere, which bring out of the shadows the interactions enabling the fixation of sounds, the specificity of studio work remains an object of subsidiary interest in the French-speaking research literature. This applies even more to the diversity of configurations and forms of music recording work in the Global South. In these industrializing countries, formerly colonized by the West, integration into global capitalism does not represent a simple cultural homogenization. While not denying the persistent effects of domination, the industrialization and globalization of musical cultures have also implied the circulation, appropriation and differencing of aesthetic and technical resources in the production of phonograms that circulate today in the form of tapes, discs or files.

The computerization of studios of the South is indeed interlinked with a globalization that is split into two movements that are not necessarily simultaneous. On the one hand, the equipment of the recording and mastering studios gives rise to a digital organology which is still to be finely characterized, in its uses as well as in its miniaturization or in the relative lowering of its costs. On the other hand, the digital interconnection of studios allows new forms of collaboration and access to services that are used as much in production as in the marketing and promotion of musical products and studios themselves.

This call aims to gather works on this sociotechnical reconfiguration which reshapes the position of the Global Souths’ studios, in new interdependencies and imaginaries. The performative nature of discourses such as African Digital Optimism is attracting venture capital funds, music majors, telcos and platforms. On another scale, international artists are reinvesting in their countries of origin and international cooperation agencies are sometimes providing production resources or training programs. Such investments may be interpreted as a hypothesis of valorization and relocation of activities in new centers of sound production, which contrasts with previous forms of international circulation of artistic resources and recording production, as was the case for World Music (Martin, 1996).

Is the hypothesis of this relocation verified in the make-up of national or regional markets, in the strategies of different artistic players (South-South and North-South migrations) and in the circulation of works at different scales (local, national, international)? And if these rearrangements give hope to see new forms of autonomy and emancipation in artistic production flourish, what form(s) do the disparities still present between North and South take, in the conceptions of sound quality standards (Meintjes, 2003), in the budgets and materials available, in the access to diffusion and distribution?

This call for papers is open to contributions that encourage an open disciplinary dialogue, ranging from the socioeconomics of symbolic goods to ethnomusicology, with an emphasis on ethnographic materials, studies on the genesis and structure of local sound production fields, or analyses of individual or collective trajectories of professionals in a diversely globalized space. Proposals for papers may fall within one or more of the following four axes, which propose different scales of approach to studio work.

Theme 1: Ethnographing the sound recording project

The ethnographic approach of the phonographic production process allows us to grasp, as closely as possible to the production process, the interdependencies and imaginaries in action, objectifying how the studios of the Souths gather around a project (title, EP, Mixtape, album…) differentiated professional ethoses and arrange specific modes of interaction where “indigenous” or “indigenized” forms of categorization are put into practice.

In some ethnographic approaches, the recording studio is understood as a music instrument and the work of mixing as an artistic performance (Brendan, 2017). In other studies, the details of the creative process and technical fixation can be analyzed in terms of ‘musical magic’ and ritual sequence (Wainer, 2020). Finally, the ethnographic approach makes it possible to grasp certain affective or aesthetic dimensions in the relationship to technical material. Spatial and material relations also help to regulate tasks and roles (Gander, 2014), in a division of labor that is both given (conventions) and constantly renegotiated within each project.

To the strictly technical resources and skills that the artist seeks in the studio, a range of aesthetic and relational skills are added (Battentier, 2021) which clearly differentiate a professional ethos but remain open to a constant negotiation of the division of labor. But studies of musicians’ conceptions of producers and sound engineers (Pras and Guastavino, 2011) note a paradox in the latter’s conceptions of their role: they must make the “right” sonic choices, taking into account the musicians’ demands and the project’s aesthetics, and must alternately be directive and remain discreet, seemingly transparent and passive.

Methodological and reflexive insights into the modes of insertion of the researcher in these ethnographic fields (cf. Greene & Porcello, 2005), sometimes perceived as closed, are welcome in this issue of Volume!

Theme 2: Portraits of the techie as an artist and entrepreneur

The interdependencies and new imaginaries are also crystallizing in new statuses and practices that make it possible to articulate art and business. From being a subaltern technician with extra-artistic skills, the long history of the music industry has turned the sound engineer into a truly artistic agent and the studio owner into an entrepreneur. From a more diachronic perspective, the analysis of individual or collective trajectories that are woven around the studio makes it possible to describe both the forms of accumulation necessary for the development of a technical recording configuration, the collaborative and hierarchical space that the studio constitutes, and the transformations of the conditions for the realization and recognition of this work in the value chain.

The digitalization of different aspects of musical work has affected studio musicians, who were expected to diversify and acquire sound engineering skills (Herbst and Albrecht, 2018), just as some sound engineers were able to develop skills in arranging and artistic direction of musical projects (Pras et al., 2019). These skills appear to be crucial in maintaining – and succeeding – in their activities. This raises the question of specialization and distinction trajectories in a competitive context, of diversification and hierarchisation in the local and international space of studios. How do the tensions between the logic of specialization (new professions) and de-specialization (self-production, multiple skills) manifest themselves in different configurations? How do the specialized and often entirely digital “home studios” and “small studios” of the South position themselves and link up with the “big studios” which offer a vast range of equipment and skills, associated with much wider production chains? What capitalization strategies are being invested in the potentially costly technical configurations of recording studios?

The diversity of configurations that can be observed as a result of technical and stylistic transformations gives rise to professional differentiation (training, styles, provided services, work distribution within the studio). It also involves the socialization and professional identification of producers and sound engineers as professional groups. What new skills are required from the sound engineers? Do local situations give rise to the conditions for vocational careers? Or is it rather a question of strategies for the reconversion of artists into back-up personnel or intermediaries? In this context, it seems just as important to question the disparities, hierarchies and dispositions of the latter with regard to access to training, diplomas, gender and class, as it is to account for and analyze the new injunctions accompanying the process of digitalization of recorded music.

Theme 3: Studios in the South: worlds apart?

Focusing on the studio helps to uncover little-studied facets of the “art worlds” (Becker, 1982) associated with music production. Networks of interdependence over short or very long distances constitute the preconditions of production: the networks of clients, auxiliary contributors (musicians), suppliers and/or equipment maintenance personnel, the addition of new services offered by the studios (video), and the “back-up personnel” (within the home studio and even diasporic relays for the acquisition of equipment). With the advent of the internet, these worlds and the chains of interaction are being recomposed. They highlight the forms of attachment of the different practitioners, as well as the formation of communities of specific tastes, both for hardware and software, which influence the circulation and appropriation of standards and skills: choice of equipment and settings, processing channels, desired effects, technical and aesthetic standards, etc.

In these new developments, what elements of the “Northern standards” are spread and imposed by dominant techniques? What role does the local manufacture or maintenance of audio equipment play? How does e-commerce affect the circulation of these standards and the development of “economic models”? Do free and cracked software play a key role? In the contexts of the South, how are tools not originally designed for specific musical forms (scale, rhythm, timbre, harmonics) appropriated?

The attachment to physical studio configurations also concerns the genesis and circulation of original musical styles. In contrast to the unprecedented concentration of distribution/diffusion, “alternative” or specific circuits (outside the mainstream) are appearing and development, as well as forms of “centers in the periphery” (or regional centers): by musical genre, by geographical origin. It may be interesting from this point of view to draw up typologies and social cartographies of studios: for which musical genres and/or for which listeners?

Contributions to this theme could also address the renewal of relations to collective agreements (formal and informal), “business models», financing and equipment acquisition strategies or legal issues (status of organizations, intellectual property and royalty distribution).

Theme 4: Platformisation and reintermediation of studio work

The digitalization of the artistic worlds of the Global South comes with a redefinition of the functions of cultural intermediation (Jeanpierre and Roueff, 2014). With the trend towards the “platformisation” of cultural productions and activities on the web (cf. Bullich and Guignard, 2016), ongoing developments show a growing interest in the digital audio sector, invested by new entrants from the IT and web sectors. This is evidenced by the increased financialisaton of certain key players (Mulligan, 2021), and the multiplication of platforms ensuring intermediation between the music field’s various players: broadcasting, distribution and livestreaming platforms aimed at “content producers”; platforms for professionals linking, for example, sample producers, mastering and pressing services, panels of testers, etc.

What are the barriers to access and use of these platforms in the South, platforms that often originate in the North? Do particular conditions of access in these countries show specific roll-out strategies in the South? Do we see unforeseen uses of these platforms, or the development of similar services through other mechanisms? Do we see forms of acceleration of the processes of platformisation induced by the different ways in which the activity of studios in the South is allocated in the context of the global crisis of COVID?

From a more “microeconomic” point of view, what are the stakes for producers, sound engineers and musicians in this shift in value towards creation? Do we perceive any changes in their creative activities, their working habits, or in their perceptions in terms of “quality”, “professionalism”, and market size?

Guest editors

  • Stéphane Costantini, EHESS
  • Vassili Rivron, université de Caen

Submission guidelines 

Proposals for contributions, in the form of a detailed article abstract of 300 to 500 words, in French or English, should be sent by e-mail to the coordinators of the special issue: and

before October 28th 2022.

Notifications will be sent by end of November 2022.

Full papers, in French or English, should be then be sent before March 13th 2023, and should follow the journal’s submission standards, available online.

Articles will then be submitted to the journal’s review process.

This special issue of Volume! will be published in Spring 2024.

Reviewing Committee

  • Arnaud Baubérot (Université Paris xii, France)
  • Andy Bennett (Griffith University, Australie)
  • Christian Béthune (chercheur indépendant, France)
  • Hugh Dauncey (Newcastle University, Grande-Bretagne)
  • Simon Frith (University of Edinburgh, Écosse)
  • Hervé Glévarec (CNRS, France)
  • Éric Gonzales (Université Rennes ii, France)
  • Theodore Gracyk (Minnesota State University Moorhead, États-Unis)
  • Joël Guibert (Université de Nantes, France)
  • Ian Inglis (Northumbria University, Grande-Bretagne)
  • Olivier Julien (Université Paris iv, France)
  • Barbara Lebrun (University of Manchester, Grande-Bretagne)
  • Béatrice Madiot (Université de Picardie ii, France)
  • Éric Maigret (Université Paris iii – Sorbonne-Nouvelle, France)
  • Christian Marcadet (Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, France)
  • Denis-Constant Martin (Institut d’Études Politiques de Bordeaux, France)
  • Virginie Milliot (CNRS, France)
  • Jean-Claude Moineau (Université Paris viii de Vincennes-Saint-Denis, France)
  • Gaëlle Pantin-Sohier (Université d’Angers, France)
  • Catherine Pessin (Université de Grenoble, France)
  • Christophe Pirenne (Université catholique de Louvain, Belgique)
  • Roger Pouivet (Université de Nancy ii, France)
  • Dominique Sagot-Duvauroux (Université d’Angers, France)
  • Jean-Marie Seca (Université de Versailles – Saint-Quentin en Yvelines, France)
  • Will Straw (McGill University, Canada)
  • Florence Tamagne (Université Lille iii, France)
  • Philippe Teillet (Institut d’Études Politiques de Grenoble, France)
  • Marc Touché (MNATP, CNRS, France)
  • Sheila Whiteley (University of Salford, Grande-Bretagne) +
  • Patrick Williams (CNRS, France)
  • Masahiro Yasuda (University of Leicester, Grande-Bretagne)


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  • Friday, October 28, 2022


  • musique populaire, production musicale, ethnographie, numérique, plateforme, Afrique, Amérique Latine, Asie


  • Vassili Rivron
    courriel : vassili [dot] rivron [at] unicaen [dot] fr

Information source

  • Vassili Rivron
    courriel : vassili [dot] rivron [at] unicaen [dot] fr

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« Studio worlds and world studios: the sound factories of the Global South », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, September 21, 2022,

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