Network Transition among Early-Career Korean Songwriters

李鎔勳 | GARGIULO, Martin

Network is integral for not only survival, but also success in a career. This cannot be more true for people in freelancing careers; their network contacts get them new job opportunities from which they can learn and hone their skills.

However, how should people build their network? Lee and Gargiulo engages this question with an interesting angle. People in the early stages of their careers often face a trade-off between cultivating a closed network or developing an open network. People in their early career are likely to benefit from the solidarity and mutual trust generated by a closed network to gain access to new job opportunities. But if they fail to transit from a closed network to an open network they may fall into a survival trap—that is, one may survive at the cost of jeopardizing their chances of having a successful career—because closed networks lack the diversity of information and arbitrage opportunities from which they could hone their skills. These opportunities are richer in an open network that connects one to contacts who are separated by “structural holes.”

Lee and Gargiulo gives an answer to how and what makes people to undergo this transition by developing and testing a theory with early-career freelance Korean pop (K-pop) songwriters. They find that early-career songwriters typically start with a small and closed collaboration network and then transition to a larger and open one by adding new collaborators, but those who eventually become successful opens up their network more quickly. Two factors inducing such transition are identified: success of relevant peers and low stylistic variance of prior unsuccessful efforts. These factors provide motivational push for early-career songwriters to venture into new collaborations with people who were distant from them, thereby opening up their network.

Nevertheless, Lee and Gargiulo find two constraints to such motivational push. First, when their prior unsuccessful efforts are highly similar to one another, distant people may perceive them to be less adaptable in their work, find them difficult to collaborate, and forego potential collaborations. Second, such motivational push tend to result new collaborations with equally unsuccessful early careers songwriters—in other words, misery loves company. These reveal the perennial predicament of the early-career freelancers, notwithstanding the elusive promises of autonomy and flexibility that freelancing careers offer.


Assistant Professor