Purpose: This study is intended to extend scholarship on the management of organizations by examining the long-term performance of orphaned products.
Design/methodology/approach: This study uses the historical context of the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression to examine the long-run appeal (performance) of orphaned products — products from start-ups that fail soon after production. I use this setting to determine how factors within the purview of management, as well as the role of changing tastes, affect the appeal of music from short-lived start-ups founded in 1929 and 1933.
Findings/originality/value: I find that while the evolution of tastes has a substantial effect beyond the control of a firm's managers, a start-up's decision-makers were able to positively influence the long-run appeal of music when they (a) recorded tunes with new artists and (b) were able to create an early big hit with the tune. These results demonstrate how and why, even with cultural producers in one of the greatest economic disasters in U.S. history, managerial decisions were meaningful for product performance. Finally, I show that the effect of being a start-up on the long-run appeal of a tune is time-varying such that being a start-up in 1929 or 1933 does not harm a tune's appeal until after World War II. These final analyses point to further ways in which strategy, history, and sociology might combine to further scholarship on the management of organizations.