In this paper, I use social sequence analysis to explore patterns of stylistic erraticism and stability in the early-career production of underground electronic music artists. Extant research has paid primary attention to erratic and deviant choices made by established producers who already have a distinctive signature in their respective fields. While stylistic changes and erratic choices have sustained superior performance under certain circumstances, stylistic stability has ben generally identified as beneficial to producers in their creative journeys. However, stylistic experimentation – and therefore erratic behavior – is frequent at the very beginning of one’s career, when a distinctive signature is still to emerge.
Early-career stylistic behavior is therefore a locus of tension between the audience’s desire for a distinctive and stable signature and the producer’s need to experiment with diverse stylistic material. Drawing on, and departing from, the concept of liability of newness, I propose the concept of immunity of newness.
I argue, and empirically show, that audience members do not discriminate between high and low levels of erraticism at the very beginning of an artist’s career. Under the immunity of newness, they therefore refrain from assigning market penalties to new producers that experiment with diverse styles. However, I also confirm that artists that stabilize their style in a following phase outperform their peers (i.e., artists with a similar previous pattern of erraticism) that do not stabilize. Discussion points to other settings where the immunity of newness applies in practice, but has not been interiorized by market participants yet – in particular, start-up entrepreneurship and contemporary job markets. The presentation will include an overview of the methodology of social sequence analysis. Originally developed to study DNA sequences, it has received attention from social scientists interested in career development.
In this paper, I present an example of how this methodology can offer new ways to address old and new questions, while making room for future research agendas on creativity.
Giovanni Formilan is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Warwick. He completed his PhD at the University of Bologna (Italy). In his research, he studies the relationship between identity and market popularity, and the processes that sustain innovation and superior performance in the creative and cultural domains. He uses a wide variety of methodologies in his research, including multivariate regression, social network and social sequence analysis, text and visual analysis, and qualitative data collection and processing. He has been visiting PhD student at Columbia University, Department of Sociology, and visiting researcher at the Center on Organizational Innovation (COI). He is currently visiting the Department of Management of the Freie Universität Berlin. In 2016 he co-founded a startup that develops innovative methodologies for the teaching of physical sciences.