Off World Sounds: Building a Collaborative Soundscape

Tara Brabazon, Stephen Mallinder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There are many ways to construct, shape and frame a history of popular music. From a focus on performers to a stress on cities, from theories of modernity to reveling in ‘the post,’ innovative music has been matched by evocative writing about it. One arc of analysis in popular music studies focuses on the record label. Much has been written about Sun, Motown, Factory and Apple, but there are many labels that have not reached this level of notoriety and fame but offer much to our contemporary understanding of music, identity and capitalism.

The aim of this article is to capture an underwritten history of 21st century music, capturing and tracking moments of collaboration, movement and contact. Through investigating a specific record label, we explore the interconnectiveness of electronica and city-based creative industries’ initiatives. While urban dance culture is still pathologised through drug scares and law and order concerns, clubbing studies and emerging theories of sonic media and auditory cultures offer a significant trigger and frame for this current research. The focus on Off World Sounds (OWS) traces a meta-independent label that summons, critiques, reinscribes and provokes the conventional narratives of capitalism in music. We show how OWS has remade and remixed the collaborations of punk to forge innovative ways of thinking about creativity, policy and popular culture. While commencing with a review of the origin, ideology and intent of OWS, the final part of the paper shows where the experiment went wrong and what can be learnt from this sonic label laboratory.
Original languageEnglish
JournalM/C: A Journal of Media and Culture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2006

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  • Pop music


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