Soundstream: The Introduction of Commercial Digital Recording Technologies in the United States

By Simon Barber on July 9th, 2018

This research was published in the Journal on the Art of Record Production and takes the form of a case study into the operations of Soundstream, the first commercial digital audio recording company in the United States.

It was developed from work undertaken during my PhD on the American record label GRP, who were an early adopter of digital audio recording technology developed by Soundstream.

Prior to publication I presented this research at the Art of Record Production conference held at Leeds Metropolitan University in December 2010. You can read more about the conference and presentation here.

In both the publication and the conference paper I consider ideas related to political economy, entrepreneurship, and digital culture. These ideas are linked closely to the five principle research themes of the BCMCR: identity; history and heritage; cultural practice; technology; production, regulation and enterprise.

Taking first the themes of technology and enterprise, and looking in particular at the disruptive nature of the advances made by the entrepreneurial activities of Soundstream, there are parallels here with the work of my colleagues Andrew Dubber and Tim Wall , who have looked at the way in which organisations operating within the present day music industries are negotiating the importance of internet technologies. Recently, my own work with Edition Records, looking at the manner in which this independent UK jazz record label engages with audiences via social media, continues this theme.

Considering technology and digital culture in terms of history is also particularly relevant here as the story of Soundstream represents something of an unwritten story in both popular music and digital cultural histories. Examining and critiquing the manner in which music histories are constructed is something my colleagues Tim Wall and Paul Long have been developing over recent years in their work on the mediation of televised histories of popular music.