Dubstep music first took shape in South London as part of a very localised musical and cultural heritage. It was informed by overlapping continua of UK-based musical practices, and was nurtured within the limited bounds of two specialist club nights and a Croydon record shop. During the 2000s, though, the genre was subjected to very different paradigms via the digitally accelerated exchange of ideas and the evolving capabilities of creative audio tools, causing the music to mutate beyond recognition. Through the findings of a netnography, this presentation explores the influence of digital technology on dubstep music’s evolution. The Web contains significant evidence of evolving technologies and creative approaches, and in this paper I use the online activities of American dubstep artist Moonboy as a representative case study.

Through this case study I examine the technological changes since the mid-2000s that have influenced both music creation and the exchange of ideas. This tells us an intimate story about the influence of technology on culture, and the way that an advancing “technoculture” is represented by certain musical styles. While technology has always been a factor in the realisation of dubstep music, my netnography reveals the ways that over time technological rather than geographical paradigms took precedence in the “sonic vision” of music creators.

By showing the means by which technology has become an increasingly significant actor in the realisation of dubstep music, and also touching on the evolution of the genre’s visual language in the hands of translocal “interpretive communities”, this paper tackles questions about the role of digital technologies in musical activity and the balance of agency between social and technological in changing cultural phenomena.


“Marko” to my friends, among whom I include all delegates of this e-conference, I am a first year PhD student at the University of Bristol under Dr Justin Williams. My thesis examines the evolution of dubstep music, subject to an array of musical cultures over fifteen years both within London and beyond. My research interests include speculative realism and the semantic fringes of ecomusicology. I am also a musician (of sorts), and had a semi-professional career in the late-2000s as a dubstep DJ and producer.


  1. Hi Mark,

    Thanks so much for this presentation—really interesting and gives me much food for thought for my own research.

    I wonder what your thoughts are about the parallel evolution of dubstep here in the UK from 2008 onwards and whether you think a similar level of orthodoxy exists because of tutorial videos, plugins etc., even though the sound being pursued is often more Mala, less Coki, as it were…? Or do you think the continuing importance of local scenes (Bristol, Leeds, etc.) which just don’t exist in the US helps to dilute and diversify the sound and the ideas?


    1. Hi Maria,

      Thanks very much for your comment ! I’m still at quite an early stage of the project and my research has so far taken me in quite unexpected directions, but I’ll try my best to answer your questions partly from research and partly from first-hand experience.

      Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that the UK / US parallel evolution of dubstep post-2008, up until about 2010/11 were entirely intertwined and led primarily by musicians in the UK. The more “Coki” sound that took hold in America was pioneered in the UK by artists such as Distance, Caspa, Rusko, Flux Pavillion, Doctor P, Funtcase, Stenchman etc. (and of course Coki), and this is what I refer to as the “shock and awe” paradigm in my paper. The widespread association with dubstep and “shock and awe” was largely due to the massive success of Caspa and Rusko’s FabricLive 37 compilation, which came out at the end of 2007. “Shock and awe” actually caused a big rift in the scene (which was provocatively set to music by Rusko in his 2009 track ‘Moaners’) and this all happened in the UK pre-American EDM assimilation.

      After 2010, my feeling is that dubstep in the UK / Europe was led by “the moaners” (no offence intended – I’m just light-heartedly borrowing Rusko’s term), and rather than evolving in parallel to what was happening in the US, actually actively reacted against it. The overwhelming majority of work for the successful second and third wave of UK DJs was coming from the States, where consumer demand was very much “shock and awe”, and consequently loads of the original dubstep pioneers went into retirement or semi-retirement, or jumped-ship into other genres. Dubstep scenes in UK enclaves such as as London, Bristol and Leeds (which I’ll return to in a sec) shrivelled down to effectively nothing. “Dubstep”, as the generation who attended DMZ in ’05 / ’06 understood it, was dead.

      Those in the UK who upheld the “traditional dubstep sound”, were to some extent I would say retroactively constructing a genre. The surprising thing about dubstep before it came to maturity in the mid-late 2000s is the amount of variance in the music. In that sense, there is no “traditional dubstep”. The quasi-traditional, dark and minimal tracks being created in the UK / Europe (and to some extent the US) which were a reaction against the mainstream hunger for shock and awe became known as “dungeon”.

      Many producers I know working within this paradigm are still using the same plugins as they were ten years ago ! I would say in that sense, technology has had less of an impact that with the Serum -> post-shock and awe thing. Also, in the early 2010s there was very little in the way of dubstep tutorial videos online, and as the repository filled over the course of the decade it was utterly dominated by American content creators purveying shock and awe techniques, so I would say that this element of technology likewise had a smaller hand than with the aggy sound that went mainstream in the States. The relative absence of technology as an ally for traditional / dungeon / whatever-step perhaps offers some explanation of why “dubstep” to most people seems to conjure the aggy, abrasive stuff.

      Regarding local scenes, my experience of Bristol is that musicians in the city had moved past “dubstep” and were experimenting with various strands of post-dubstep even before the movement had imploded in the UK. Dubstep had a rather difference resonance in Bristol than in London, attached more to the city’s own unique musical legacy than to Reynold’s contestable, London-centric hardcore continuum. In this sense the sound in Bristol never became fully homogenised, so yes, the locality really gave the scene (in a very traditional sense of the word) a vitality that meant it enjoyed significant mutability before, during and after shock and awe crystallised into the brostep template in the States and subsequently on the Web.

      That’s a whole heap of words and probably way too many inverted commas. Hopefully there’s some semblance of an answer in there for you somewhere !

      All best,


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