ISBN Hit Makers
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A Book of the Year Selection for Inc. and Library Journal
"This book picks up where The Tipping Point left off." -- Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of ORIGINALS and GIVE AND TAKE
Nothing "goes viral." If you think a popular movie, song, or app came out of nowhere to become a word-of-mouth success in today's crowded media environment, you're missing the real story. Each blockbuster has a secret history-of power, influence, dark broadcasters, and passionate cults that turn some new products into cultural phenomena. Even the most brilliant ideas wither in obscurity if they fail to connect with the right network, and the consumers that matter most aren't the early adopters, but rather their friends, followers, and imitators -- the audience of your audience.
In his groundbreaking investigation, Atlantic senior editor Derek Thompson uncovers the hidden psychology of why we like what we like and reveals the economics of cultural markets that invisibly shape our lives. Shattering the sentimental myths of hit-making that dominate pop culture and business, Thompson shows quality is insufficient for success, nobody has "good taste," and some of the most popular products in history were one bad break away from utter failure. It may be a new world, but there are some enduring truths to what audiences and consumers want. People love a familiar surprise: a product that is bold, yet sneakily recognizable.
Every business, every artist, every person looking to promote themselves and their work wants to know what makes some works so successful while others disappear. Hit Makers is a magical mystery tour through the last century of pop culture blockbusters and the most valuable currency of the twenty-first century-people's attention.
From the dawn of impressionist art to the future of Facebook, from small Etsy designers to the origin of Star Wars, Derek Thompson leaves no pet rock unturned to tell the fascinating story of how culture happens and why things become popular.
In Hit Makers, Derek Thompson investigates:
- Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of ORIGINALS and GIVE AND TAKE
While giving Lady Luck her due, Thompson studiously examines the myriad factors that make the things we buy, like and follow so irresistible: whether Facebook, TV shows such as Seinfeld, Bumble (the app, not the insect), even favorite lullabies. In Hit Makers, his first book, Thompson tackles this mystery with solid research, ready wit and catchy aphorisms a wonderful book.
Superb. --Fareed Zakaria, Book of the Week selection
Hit Makers is thoughtful and thorough, a compelling book . a terrific look at what makes a hit, from the Mona Lisa to Donald Trump. Vox
This entertaining look at the creation of blockbusters takes on many creators' and marketers' assumptions Hit Makers coats science in compelling story Inc
"Fascinating ... Thompson has huge enthusiasm for his topic and has amassed an amazing amount of material, including many offbeat and engaging stories. ... [Should] be read for insight and provocation." John Gapper Financial Times
"[Thompson] has assembled a book in the Malcolm Gladwell tradition: telling great stories to illustrate some fascinating and often far-from-obvious theses." Daily Mail
"Thompson's diligent research and lively prose ensure that Hit Makers is always informative and entertaining." Prospect
"Thompson does a really fascinating job of explaining how things become popular, drawing on a wide range of cultural phenomena, from Star Wars to the iPhone, Taylor Swift to Game of Thrones." Ben East Observer
"[An] engaging cultural study." Steven Poole Guardian
"Spirited ... An entertaining and informative guide." The Times
"A useful survey ... Thompson makes lots of snappy remarks and unexpected comparisons." David Sexton Evening Standard
"Derek Thompson has long been one of the brightest new voices in American journalism. With HIT MAKERS, he becomes one of the brightest new voices in the world of non-fiction books. Ranging from Impressionist art to German lullabies to Game of Thrones, HIT MAKERS offers a fresh and compelling take on how the media function and how ideas spread. As deftly written as it is keenly argued, this book true to its title is a hit. Daniel H. Pink, New York Times bestselling author of DRIVE and TO SELL IS HUMAN
Derek Thompson s HIT MAKERS is a sharply observed history of the megahit, from the 13th-centuy tunic craze to the iPhone, tracing the strange ever-changing mixture of genius, dumb luck, business savvy, and network math that turns an obscurity into a worldwide smash.
-Jordan Ellenberg, New York Times bestselling author of HOW NOT TO BE WRONG
"What makes one song hit, and another, flop, one book a success and the other, fodder for the discount bins? That's the mystery Derek Thompson probes with his characteristic verve, wit, and insight in "Hit Makers." It's an engrossing read that doesn't settle for easy answers, and one that seems destined to become one of the hits that Thompson so deftly analyzes."
-Maria Konnikova, New York Times bestselling author of THE CONFIDENCE GAME
Hit Makers blends historical lessons with technological & social insights to explain what makes culture tick, and hits happen.
Steve Case, Chairman and CEO of Revolution and Co-Founder of America Online
Derek Thompson s Hit Makers is a terrific read a sparkling combination of fascinating stories, cutting-edge science, and superb business advice. Just as he does when he writes for The Atlantic, Thompson shares more interesting ideas per paragraph than practically any other writer today. Hit Makers is a bible for anyone who s ever tried to promote practically anything, from products, people, and ideas, to books, songs, films, and TV shows.
Adam Alter, New York Times Bestselling author of Drunk Tank Pink and Irresistible
"I always read everything by Derek Thompson I see, and this book was no exception. Why things become popular is one of the most important questions in an ever-more networked world, and Derek Thompson's *Hit Makers* is the best and most serious attempt to take a look at it."
Tyler Cowen, author of The Great Stagnation and Marginal Revolution
This book is brilliant, a fascinating exploration of the relationship between artistry and industry, the ways that everything from immigration to distribution helps create the popular imagination. You may never look at your favorite film or song the same way again. It should be required reading for anyone working in the popular arts.
Simon Kinberg, producer of The Martian, screenwriter and producer for the X-Men film franchises
Thompson tackles the daunting subject of how products come to dominate the culture in this interdisciplinary romp that delves into many facets of the entertainment industry as well as industrial design, art history, publishing, and politics presenting his case with verve and a lightning chain of compact anecdotes .This book will appeal to readers of Malcolm Gladwell as well as pop-culture enthusiasts and anyone interested in the changing media landscape.
How does a nice idea become an earworm, or a fashion trend, or shudder a meme? Atlantic senior editor Thompson ventures a few well-considered answers .Good reading for anyone who aspires to understand the machinery of pop culture and perhaps even craft a hit of his or her own.
The Power of Exposure
Fame and Familiarity in Art, Music, Politics
On a rainy morning one fall, I was walking alone through the impressionist exhibit of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Standing before a wall of renowned paintings, I was struck by a question that I imagine many people wonder quietly in a museum, even if it s rude to say out loud in a company of strangers: Why is this thing so famous?
It was The Japanese Footbridge by Claude Monet, with the blue bridge arching over an emerald green pond that is gilded with patches of yellow, pink, and green the iconic water lilies. It was impossible not to recognize. One of my favorite picture books as a kid included several of Monet s water lily paintings. It was also impossible to ignore, on account of several kids scrambling through the geriatric crowd to get a closer look. Yes! a teenage girl said, holding up her phone in front of her face to take a picture. Oh! exclaimed the taller, curly-haired boy behind her. It s that famous one! Several more high school students heard their shouts, and within seconds a group had clustered around the Monet.
Several rooms away, the gallery held a special exhibit for another impressionist painter, Gustave Caillebotte. This was a quieter, slower affair. There were no students and no ecstatic exclamations of recognition, just a lot of mmm-hmms and solemn nods. Caillebotte is not world famous like Monet, Manet, or Cézanne. The sign outside his exhibition at the National Gallery called him perhaps the least known of the French impressionists.
But Caillebotte s paintings are exquisite. His style is impressionist yet exacting, as if captured with a slightly more focused camera lens. Often from a window s view, he rendered the colorful urban geometry of nineteenth-century Paris the yellow rhomboid blocks, the pale white sidewalks, and the iridescent grays of rain-slicked boulevards. His contemporaries considered him a phenomenon on par with Monet and Renoir. Émile Zola, the great French writer who drew attention to impressionism s delicate patches of color, pronounced Caillebotte one of the boldest of the group. Still, 140 years later, Monet is one of the most famous painters in history, while Caillebotte is relatively anonymous.
A mystery: Two rebellious painters hang their art in the same impressionist exhibit in 1876. They are considered of similar talent and promise. But one painter s water lilies become a global cultural hit enshrined in picture books, studied by art historians, gawked at by high school students, and highlighted in every tour of the National Gallery of Art and the other painter is little known among casual art fans. Why?
For many centuries, philosophers, artists, and psychologists have studied modern art to learn the truth about beauty and popularity. For understandable reasons, many focused on the paintings themselves. But studying the patches of Monet and the brushstrokes of Caillebotte won t tell you why one is famous and the other is not. You have to see the deeper story. Famous paintings, hit songs, and blockbusters that seem to float effortlessly on the cultural consciousness have a hidden genesis; even water lilies have roots.
When a team of researchers at Cornell University studied the story of the impressionist canon, they found that something surprising set the most famous painters apart. It wasn t their social connections or their nineteenth-century renown. It was a subtler story. And it all started with Caillebotte.
Gustave Caillebotte was born to a wealthy Parisian family in 1848. As a young man, he veered from law to engineering to the French army in the Franco-Prussian War. But in his twenties, he discovered a