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


  • Ronnie Phillips


  • Ian Strachan



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. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Suggested Citation

  • Ronnie Phillips & Ian Strachan, 2016. "Breaking up is hard to do: the resilience of the rock group as an organizational form for creating music," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 40(1), pages 29-74, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jculte:v:40:y:2016:i:1:p:29-74
    DOI: 10.1007/s10824-014-9226-1

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    Cited by:

    1. Cellini, Roberto & Cuccia, Tiziana, 2018. "Do behaviours in cultural markets affect economic resilience? An analysis of the Italian regions," MPRA Paper 83904, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Samuel Cameron, 2016. "Past, present and future: music economics at the crossroads," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 40(1), pages 1-12, February.

    More about this item


    Music industry; Entrepreneurship; Theory of the firm; L26; Z1;

    JEL classification:

    • L26 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Entrepreneurship
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics


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