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Jan. 31 | The Social Foundations of Creativity: Evidence from Popular Music, 1955 to 2000

  • 509 Knox Hall | Columbia University 606 West 122nd Street New York, NY, 10027 United States (map)

The Social Foundations of Creativity: Evidence from Popular Music, 1955 to 2000

Michael Mauskapf (Columbia Business School), with Eric Quintane, Noah Askin & Joeri Mol

WHEN: Wednesday, January 31st, 2018, 12:00 - 2:00 p.m.

WHERE: Knox Hall 509, 606 W 122nd Street

Creativity is central to cultural production, but what makes certain producers more likely to innovate than others? More specifically, what are the different sources of social influence that drive variation in creative output, and through what mechanisms do these sources operate? To answer these questions, we leverage original data on over 25,000 musical artists and 600,000 songs recorded and released between 1955 and 2000, using fine-grained musical features to construct a continuous measure of creative output (i.e., song novelty). We then test whether musicians draw creative inspiration through the recombination of diverse ideas, or are instead stimulated by the creativity of their musical neighbors. We find that both of these mechanisms explain an artist’s propensity to write and release novel songs, but in systematically different ways: creative artists tend to recombine material from diverse genres that they encounter through their collaboration networks, while they draw inspiration from—and are granted legitimacy by—other creative artists with shared genre, record label, and/or geographic affiliations. This pattern holds even after controlling for an individual or group’s historical propensity to produce novel songs. These findings suggest that the likelihood of generating new ideas is influenced not only by direct interaction and collaboration with others, but also through indirect exposure via shared cultural, organizational, and geographic contexts. Understanding when and how creative potential travels across these “spheres of influence” sheds new light on the production of novelty in music and the social foundations of creativity more generally.

Michael Mauskapf is an Assistant Professor of Management at Columbia Business School, where he teaches ‘Introduction to Venturing’ in the MBA curriculum. His research integrates insights from organization theory, economic sociology, and computational social science to better understand the dynamics of creativity, innovation, and success in cultural industries. Michael’s dissertation was awarded the Art Stinchcombe Dissertation Prize in Organization Studies by Northwestern University, and it was recognized as a finalist in the 2016 INFORMS/Organization Science Dissertation Proposal Competition. His work has been published in the Academy of Management Review, the American Sociological Review, and the Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings, and it has been featured in a number of popular press outlets, including the BBC, Daily Mail, New York Post, and Spotify Insights.  He remains active as a performer, board member, and consultant in the arts and culture sector.  His website can be found at:

This event is free and open to the public. Lunch and light refreshments will be provided. All are welcome!

For inquires about Networks and Time, please contact coordinators Mark Hoffman ( or Eugene Grey (

Funding support for the Networks and Time Seminar Series is provided by the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Lecture Series, administered by INCITE, which features events and programming that embody and honor Lazarsfeld’s commitment to the improvement of methodological approaches that address concerns of vital cultural and social significance.