In this paper, we frame the record producer as a “nexus facilitator” of musical communication (Howlett, 2009). We examine how producers insert themselves into creative teams in unfamiliar settings using Sawyer’s (2007) group flow theory, and Weick’s (1995) sensemaking theory. To test the role of the producer in new recording environments, we adopt an ethnographic observational methodology and participate in two transnational recording experiments. Different recording situations offer the opportunity to observe producers adapting their recording approach in unfamiliar socio-cultural spaces. To conduct this research, Toby Seay travels from America to Cuba to record an ensemble that he has never met in a four-hour recording session. Daniel Pratt travels from Australia to India to record six musical groups over a period of three days using a mobile recording system. We aim to observe and document the negotiation of the unfamiliar recording setting while facilitating the musical conversation that occurs during the two recording sessions. We compare our approaches between the two exemplars to understand how the recording process changes when producers are thrust into new technical and socio-cultural spaces with limited time to generate new music. We thematically analyse our musical, technical, and personal interactions using three properties developed in Weick’s (1996) sensemaking theory. These three properties are identity, social, and sensible environment. This approach to analysing our work offers the opportunity to understand how we operate and define ourselves as producers when we construct environments, respond to identity questions and interact as social organisers within unusual recording spaces. Ultimately, we examine how these new environmental experiences change our view of record production from our previous learned approaches.


Toby Seay has a long career in the music industry as a musician, recording engineer, technical consultant and audio preservationist. As a recording engineer, Toby was based in Nashville, TN and recorded artists such as Dolly Parton, Randy Travis, Delbert McClinton, Ringo Starr, David Wilcox, Kirk Whalum and many others. Toby has worked on numerous Gold and Platinum Certified recordings as well as 8 Grammy winning recordings.

Toby’s research interests include audio preservation practices and standards, specializing in multi-track audio formats and how these resources can be put to use within audio production education and research. With regards to audio production research, Toby deconstructs record production techniques within the field of musicology and sound studies, which looks at social and participant dynamics within the recording studio environment and the effects of workflow and recording techniques on musical production outcomes.

Toby is the Project Director of the Drexel University Audio Archives, which is home to the Sigma Sound Studios Collection.

Dr Dan Pratt is the course leader for BMus Performance and Recording at the University of West London. Dr Pratt has worked as a record producer, a performer, and an educ​ator for over twenty years. He has released professionally through Sony, Universal, and Independent record labels and has recorded several highly rotated songs for radio and television. As a researcher, Dr Pratt has published papers on recording concepts, transnational recording, and s​ensemaking theory. As a performer, he has toured Australia, Hong Kong, The UK, the USA, played in multiple festivals as well as performing on stages such as the Whisky a Gogo (LA) and the Bowery Ballroom (NY).

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