Summary of Hit Makers

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Hit Makers book summary


8 Overall

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Atlantic magazine senior editor Derek Thompson investigates the science, psychology and economics of “hit making” – the process of gaining mass popularity in this chronically distracted digital age. Culturally omnivorous, Thompson explores painting, music, film, television and even websites. He reaches back in history to enduring “hits” like Johannes Brahms’s beautiful lullaby “Wiegenlied” and Claude Monet’s sumptuous oil painting “The Japanese Footbridge.” Thompson argues in detail that in the cultural marketplace, mass popularity isn’t a function of quality but of a combination of social context, economics and ancient human psychology. The only major flaw in Thompson’s approach is his diffuseness. Offering a handful of theses, Thompson roams through and reports on pop music, rock, rap, politics, film, television, the media and the Internet, shifting historical eras as he goes. His plethora of facts and ideas may inundate you. getAbstract recommends this well-written, entertaining overview to people in the culture industry and those fascinated by how a song, a movie, work of art or website becomes a blockbuster hit.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How the rules of psychology, social networks and economics govern the “hit” popularity of the familiar and the public’s quest for something new;
  • Why the most popular art works aren’t necessarily “the best,” but do have the widest exposure; and
  • How the “Most Advanced Yet Acceptable” (MAYA) principle works.

About the Author

Derek Thompson is senior editor at The Atlantic and a weekly news analyst for NPR’s Here & Now radio program. He has appeared on Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” list and Time magazine’s 140 Best Twitter Feeds.



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Some songs, television series, films, games, websites and smartphone apps achieve astonishing levels of commercial success. Their creators become wealthy and famous. Why do some cultural products become gigantic “hits” while others remain obscure? Commercial success in the contemporary global marketplace can bring vast and unprecedented monetary value. But hits aren’t a recent phenomenon. Nineteenth-century German composer Johannes Brahms’s lullaby “Wiegenlied,” for instance, was a tremendous success in Germany in its day. Emigration led it to become beloved throughout the western hemisphere.

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