New book from Columbia Business School professor draws connection between jazz and business strategy

November 08, 2013

NEW YORK -- There are more than one million jazz recordings, but only a few hundred tunes have been recorded repeatedly. Why did a minority of recordings become jazz standards? Intrigued by this question, Damon Phillips, the James P. Gorman Professor of Business Strategy in the Management Division at Columbia Business School set out to find answers in his new book, "Shaping Jazz: Cities, Labels, and the Global Emergence of an Art Form."

"What was happening in the jazz recording industry in the late 1910s and early 1920s seemed to fail business strategy 101. It didn't make sense to me and I wanted to know why," said Phillips. "I wanted answers to why the biggest record companies - the market leaders - often avoided producing certain styles of jazz, especially since the type of jazz they avoided was more successful in the marketplace."

For answers, Phillips spent nearly a decade digging through archives, conducting interviews, working with colleagues and jazz collectors, culling print media from the period, listening to recordings, and compiling data from jazz discographies -- not just the songs, but which musicians played which instruments, where a song was recorded, and the date of the recording. This gave him close to one million data points in his quantitative analysis.

Applying fascinating ideas about market emergence to music's commercialization, Phillips offers a unique look at the origins of the groundbreaking art form including: Phillips also shows the key influences of firms in the recording industry, including how record companies and their executives affected what music was recorded, and why major companies would rerelease recordings under artistic pseudonyms. He indicates how a recording's long-run appeal was related to the narrative around its creation, and how the identities of the recording's firm and musicians influenced that appeal.
For additional insight on Professor Phillips's book, please see the Q&A session he did with our thought leadership publication, Ideas at Work.

About Columbia Business School

Columbia Business School is the only world-class, Ivy League business school that delivers a learning experience where academic excellence meets with real-time exposure to the pulse of global business. Led by Dean Glenn Hubbard, the School's transformative curriculum bridges academic theory with unparalleled exposure to real-world business practice, equipping students with an entrepreneurial mindset that allows them to recognize, capture, and create opportunity in any business environment. The thought leadership of the School's faculty and staff, combined with the accomplishments of its distinguished alumni and position in the center of global business, means that the School's efforts have an immediate, measurable impact on the forces shaping business every day. To learn more about Columbia Business School's position at the very center of business, please visit

About Professor Damon Phillips

Damon J. Phillips is the James P. Gorman Professor of Business Strategy. He teaches Organizational Change at the MBA level and Social Capital at the executive level. Phillips has expertise and influential publications on the sociology of markets and organizations, as well as on social network theory and analysis. His industry specialties are markets for professional services (law, consulting, investment banking, accounting) and culture (music industry).

Columbia Business School

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