Escaping the Survival Trap: Network Transition among Early-Career Freelance Songwriters Academic Article uri icon


  • People in the early stages of their careers often face a trade-off between cultivating a closed network that helps them secure the resources they need to survive or developing an open network that can help them succeed. Actors who overcome this trade-off transition from a closed network to an open network; those who fail to do so can be caught in a survival trap that jeopardizes their chances of having a successful career. We identify the factors that enable and constrain network transitions and test our theory on a sample of Korean pop (K-pop) freelance songwriters before they have attained their first commercial hit. These songwriters initially rely on a closed network of collaborators and transition toward an open network by working with fellow songwriters who are not connected to those collaborators. This network transition occurs faster among songwriters who eventually attain their first hit than among those who remain unsuccessful. Songwriters are more likely to collaborate with new distant colleagues when they have a reference group of commercially successful peers and when they have created stylistically similar songs in the past that have failed to become hits. However, most of their new distant colleagues also lack a hit, revealing a status barrier that constrains the network transition of early-career songwriters.

published proceedings

  • Administrative Science Quarterly

altmetric score

  • 35.49

author list (cited authors)

  • Lee, Y. G., & Gargiulo, M.

citation count

  • 9

complete list of authors

  • Lee, Yonghoon G||Gargiulo, Martin

publication date

  • June 2022