Where’d You Get That Idea? Testing the Determinants of Creativity, Innovation and Impact

Bernardo Mueller (University of Brasilia)

Abstract: How is novelty created in art, science, institutions and culture? In this paper I explore this question through an analysis of data from the Song Explorer podcast, where composers describe how they created a specific song. I mine their accounts to classify their processes into seven different, but not mutually exclusive, theories of the creative process. The result of this exercise suggests that the recombination of existing songs is a major process for the creation of new successful songs. The second step considers what kind of recombinations are associated with high impact. For each song in the sample I have one or more other songs which were explicitly indicated as an influence or inspiration. I use the music genre classification system Every Noise at Once, that provides a map of over 1,800 genres and millions of songs to create a set of descriptive statistics of the similarity of each song to their inspiration-songs. These statistics are then used as explanatory variables in a regression that seeks to explain impact (YouTube views per day since the songs` video release), while controlling for other determinants of song impact, such as the artists’ established level of popularity. The results confirm the optimal differentiation hypothesis, found by research in the areas of science, technology, economics, and politics, that the simultaneous presence of conventionality together with novelty, and not just one or the other, is a major determinant of creativity and impact.

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