The sincerest form of flattery: Innovation, repetition, and status in an art movement.

JC Lena, MC Pachucki


How does art influence the status of the artists that make it? Sociologists argue that the shared use of artistic conventions produces status arrays, but we have not subjected this claim to empirical investigation. Some common metrics of status are popularity with the public and esteem from peers or critics, but these measurements have not been connected with artistic conventions. We expect that convention-derived artistic status achieves independence from other status orders (e.g., that built from sales) only after the field establishes its autonomy, or becomes 'artistically legitimate.' Using rap music as a case study, and a novel operationalization of artistic status (the innovation and repetition of artistic content), we explore the association between artistic status and public popularity before and after rap music acquires the attributes of an 'art' genre. We find support for our expectations of status order decoupling and find suggestive evidence that organizational and aesthetic category-spanning pays dividends in artistic status. Our study provides an empirical demonstration of the micro-processes that produce the status orders that theorists have argued characterize art worlds.

January, 2013