Incumbents, Innovation, and Competence: the Emergence of Recorded Jazz, 1920-1929

January 28, 2005 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Room 140c, Harris School of Public Policy Studies

Damon J. Phillips, Associate Professor of Organization and Strategy, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business

View the paper: "Incumbents, Innovation, and Competence:the Emergence of Recorded Jazz, 1920-1929"

In this engaging study, Phillips examines recorded jazz as a musical innovation of the early twentieth century. Similar to traditional research on radical innovations, the dominant incumbent record companies exhibited hesitance and less competence in offering jazz in its most radical form. In contrast to the traditional depiction, these same incumbent firms were first movers in recording an illegitimate (but profitable) form of jazz. However, they responded to elite pressure against jazz by inserting symphonic elements (recording "orchestras" and white musicians) into the more original, but illegitimate form. We draw upon research on cultural industries to understand this and examine the competence in recording jazz by the dominant incumbents. Using data on Midwest jazz recordings, Phillips’ findings suggest diminished competence when they did record nonwhite jazz musicians. At the same time, these firms recorded jazz "orchestras," with greater competence. These outcomes are important in understanding the relationship between production competence and innovation in cultural markets.

ABOUT DAMON J. PHILLIPS: Damon J. Phillips is Associate Professor of Organization and Strategy at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. Phillips research interests include social network analysis, organizational strategy, and social structural approaches to cultural markets. He has published numerous articles in such publications as The American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, and Organization Science. Phillips holds a PhD in Organizational Behavior and an AM in Sociology, both from Stanford University. In addition to his work at the GSB, Phillips is an accomplished saxophone player and a jazz aficionado.

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