“The Pro Tooling of the World”

Digital Music Production, Democracy and Environmentality


  • Brent Keogh University of Technology Sydney
  • Ian Collinson Macquarie University




music production, Pro Tools, recording, ecomusicology


The “Pro Tooling” of the world and the democratization of recording technologies, made possible by the affordances of the internet and technological innovation, have been praised for the ways in which prohibitively expensive production tools have been made available to anyone with an internet connection and a laptop. The echoes of a utopian, perhaps even Marxian, tune can be heard in the positivist accounts of the affordances of such technologies: finally, the means of production have been made available to the masses. And not only the means of production, but also dissemination: one can use a “free” digital audio workstation (DAW), download a multitude of “free” plug-ins emulating expensive analogue and digital gear of the past, and upload their song to SoundCloud or a number of different streaming services for consumption by anyone around the globe with an internet connection. However, the overly positivist accounts of the democratization of recording technologies often obscures the anxieties concerning the material conditions and environmentality of these newer technological forms. The digital realm is often (mistakenly) set against the material, a realm of infinite creative and even political possibilities. However, the digital realm is thoroughly material, and inherently dependent on material resources. The explosion in music production made possible through the development of digital technologies disseminated as affordable commodities, has also produced deplorable social and environmental conditions that significantly undermine any utopian narrative. This article thus critically examines the environmentality of contemporary music production technologies and argues for the vital relevance of an ecomusicological approach to all stages of the production process.

Author Biographies

Brent Keogh, University of Technology Sydney

Brent Keogh is a Lecturer in Music and Sound Design at the University of Technology Sydney. His current research interests include exploring perceptions of intimacy through immersive audio/visual technologies, sonic branding, and ecomusicology. He is also a composer and musician, and plays a number of instruments including guitar, vocals, mandolin and middle eastern lute (oud).

Ian Collinson, Macquarie University

Ian Collinson is a Lecturer in Media at Macquarie University, in Sydney, Australia. He is co-convenor of the Arrested/Arresting Ecologies departmental research cluster and co-director of the Faculty of Arts environmental humanities research stream. His research interests include the position of popular music in the capitalocene, and the ecological consciousness of extreme heavy metal music.


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How to Cite

Keogh, B., & Collinson, I. (2020). “The Pro Tooling of the World”: Digital Music Production, Democracy and Environmentality. Journal of World Popular Music, 7(1), 51–68. https://doi.org/10.1558/jwpm.37489