Edited by Trine Bille, Anna Mignosa and Ruth Towse
Chapter 19: Superstars
The field of cultural economics considers the phenomenon of superstardom an important and stimulating subject. Large sums of money, demand, and the talent of artists seem to be bound by a kind of logic that the economic theory textbooks explain badly. We speak of ‘superstars’ when there is evidence of small differences in talent between certain artists whose incomes differ considerably from one each other. Two explanatory arguments have been advanced: the ‘poor substitutability of high quality’ argument convincingly succeeds in reconciling this phenomenon with a theory of market that performs well; the ‘winner-takes-all’ argument denies the plausibility of such an accordance and considers that superstars are chosen mainly at random. Some glaring examples of the phenomenon are presented here. One of the main methodological problems in assessing the validity of these theoretical arguments is the absence of a reliable measure of talent.
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