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Breaking up is hard to do: the resilience of the rock group as an organizational form for creating music

Listed author(s):
  • Ronnie J. Phillips


    (Colorado State University)

  • Ian C. Strachan


    (West Texas A&M University)

Abstract Though there is a long tradition of band members quitting the group or taking a hiatus, the rock group as an organization to produce music continues to be both popular and economically viable. The research question addressed in this paper is whether or not it is a good idea to quit or take a hiatus from the group. We begin with a discussion of the framework for understanding why groups are formed and why they may be difficult to keep together. We then discuss differences between groups in the decade of the 1960s versus today. We argue that there is something unique about the output of the group even with the changes in the structure of contracts, compensation, and consumer focus on the artist that explain the resilience of the rock band as an organizational form within which to create music. We compare the charting success of bands that have members leave the group with the charting success of the members who left the group. We identified the groups in five representative years: 1965, 1975, 1985, 1995, and 2005. We then analyzed the entire Billboard Hot 100 charting careers of those groups and the artists who quit those groups. Our main finding is that when charting success is divided equally among members, going solo pays off—there is a clear economic rationale because solo acts have greater average charting success than the original bands they started in. The other ensuing side projects: duos, collaborations, and other groups are not as lucrative as the original bands. These findings are valid for members of charting groups from each of the 5 years examined. Despite the difficulties in keeping a rock band together, there are fewer band breakups today and remaining with the group generally results in a longer and more productive charting career. Thus, the rock group remains an important organization for producing contemporary music. However, there remains a compelling incentive to go solo. Superstars may benefit from solo projects, but for the average, non-superstar group member, in many circumstances it is better for the band to stay together if the income is divided equally.

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Article provided by Springer & The Association for Cultural Economics International in its journal Journal of Cultural Economics.

Volume (Year): 40 (2016)
Issue (Month): 1 (February)
Pages: 29-74

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Handle: RePEc:kap:jculte:v:40:y:2016:i:1:d:10.1007_s10824-014-9226-1
DOI: 10.1007/s10824-014-9226-1
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  1. Alchian, Armen A & Demsetz, Harold, 1972. "Production , Information Costs, and Economic Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(5), pages 777-795, December.
  2. Cedric Ceulemans & Victor Ginsburgh & Patrick Legros, 2011. "Rock and Roll Bands, (In)complete Contracts, and Creativity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 217-221, May.
  3. Alessandro Balestrino & Cinzia Ciardi, 2011. "“I Wish Someone Would Help Me Write this Song†: or, the Efficient Allocation of Resources in Rock Bands1," Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics, , vol. 23(1), pages 53-79, February.
  4. Seo Bin Hong, 2012. "A comment on survival of the hippest: life at the top of the hot 100," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(11), pages 1101-1105, July.
  5. David Giles, 2007. "Survival of the hippest: life at the top of the hot 100," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(15), pages 1877-1887.
  6. Crain, W. Mark & Tollison, Robert D., 1997. "Economics and the architecture of popular music," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 185-205, February.
  7. Eric Strobl & Clive Tucker, 2000. "The Dynamics of Chart Success in the U.K. Pre-Recorded Popular Music Industry," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 24(2), pages 113-134, May.
  8. Cameron, Samuel & Collins, Alan, 1997. "Transaction costs and partnerships: The case of rock bands," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 171-183, February.
  9. Simon W. Bowmaker & Ronnie J. Phillips & Richard D. Johnson, 2005. "Economics of rock 'n' roll," Chapters,in: Economics Uncut, chapter 14 Edward Elgar Publishing.
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