This paper discusses the extent to which sociodemographic characteristics of consumers and their past consumption are less effective in explaining the decision of purchasing a cultural good than the characteristics of the product itself, which allow for imitative behaviors and are at the basis of distinction. While the former approaches are well documented in the literature, the latter refers to Bourdieu’s idea of objectified cultural capital, which has been revisited and empirically explored. Because the various causal effects interact with each other, this paper tests a theoretical model which matches individual characteristics of the consumer with the properties of the cultural product. Specifically, we discussed the emergence of a new version of a cultural good, which is able to broaden the dimension of the market by gaining rapid success in its audience. This diffusion pattern is a quite rare event, but disruptive for the market and extremely profitable for the producer. The authors label this occurrence a disruptive cultural fad and try to understand the determinants of its adoption. The hypotheses of the model are tested on a unique dataset of microdata of purchasing transactions in Milan in the early nineteenth century, when the music by Gioachino Rossini emerged as a disruptive cultural fad at the dawn of the music industry. Results show that key features of a successful disruptive cultural fad are the role of some specific patterns of personal past consumption, the capabilities of generating positive network externalities in the consumption, and, surprisingly, the lack of negative ones due to any possible hip or snob effect.
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