The Network Influences of Innovation and Lifetime Career Success in Jazz Musicians between 1945 and 1958



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In this project I explore how career success and historical importance is an outcome of social network characteristics. Specifically, I look at jazz collaboration networks at the height of small-group jazz popularity (1945-1958) to determine if one?s structural location within the larger network influences career success. Using a network dataset collected from the Tom Lord Discography I use social network analysis techniques and longitudinal logistic regression to examine a statistical relationship between network characteristics and success. I test several existing hypotheses in network literature, e.g., centrality, brokerage, and closure, as well as newer assertions that are gaining widespread use.

Because jazz is based on improvisation there are incentives to creating a well-functioning closed group that remains cohesive so that musicians can become familiar with and attuned to one another?s musical styles. However, while this logic is sound the results of this project do not follow the closure tradition and are instead consistent with the sparse networks or brokerage hypotheses. Empirically, individuals within jazz networks who form a closed group are less likely to have a successful career. More broadly, significant conclusions of this project suggest that individuals within a rapidly changing network of innovators should maintain open networks with connections to diverse areas of the larger network.