The representation of diversity in sample packs

Blackburn, Manuella (2023). The representation of diversity in sample packs. In: NoiseFloor 2023, 12 May 2023, Staffordshire University.



This paper focusses on representation issues associated with sample packs that contain culturally diverse sound content. Sample packs are commercial products catering to a broad array of end-users who work with samples as fundamental building blocks in music production, sound design and commercial audio. Documenting the process of creating a non-Western, multi-musical instrument sample pack presented an opportunity to navigate and confront commercialisation norms involved in selling culturally diverse sound material via online distribution platforms. A close-up view of the handling of diversity within downloadable products indicates representation issues within visual artwork, text descriptions, labelling and titling conventions used for branding and marketing. The paper examines the connections and interactions between sample pack distributors, producers, musicians and end-users to illuminate supply and demand trends, while providing an update on continuing debates of cultural appropriation. Such debates merge and intertwine with larger, systemic challenges of categorisation for those who curate and sell these products, and sample retrieval for those who search for and purchase these sounds. Drawing upon first-hand experience of sample pack development in collaboration with musicians of Indian musical instruments and Milap (the UK’s leading Indian arts development trust), as part of the Instruments INDIA project provides a case study to better understand, influence and inform more desirable commercial practices in the future.

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