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date: 25 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the role of social influence in the puzzling nature of success in cultural markets: successful cultural products, such as hit songs, best-selling books, and blockbuster movies, are considerably more successful than average; yet which particular songs, books, and movies will become the next ‘big thing’ appears impossible to predict. The article investigates this paradox empirically by constructing a website where more than 27,000 participants were allowed to listen to, rate, and download new music, and where the information that these participants had about the behavior of others could be controlled. In the first three experiments, the popularity of the songs were allowed to emerge naturally, without any intervention. In the fourth experiment, the problem of self-fulfilling prophecies in cultural markets was addressed. The results show that social influence gives rise to unanticipated consequences at the collective level, including inequality and unpredictability of success.

Keywords: social influence, success, cultural markets, cultural products, music, songs, self-fulfilling prophecies, inequality of success, unpredictability of success

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