Several weeks ago in Columbus, Ohio, a group of leaders in the jazz field gathered together to consider the results of WolfBrown’s new study of jazz audiences commissioned by Jazz Arts Group. The Columbus Foundation supported the convening, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation supported the study. We are just now putting the finishing touches on the three research reports, which include: 1) a multi-site analysis of jazz ticket buyers; 2) a segmentation model for jazz ticket buyers; and 3) a segmentation model for jazz prospects (i.e., music lovers who do not attend jazz concerts with any frequency). Later this month, we will provide information about how to access these studies and details of a public webinar on October 21 at 3:00 p.m. EDT to review the results.
As researchers, we always struggle with how to engineer “uptake” of new knowledge. The great fallacy is that results of a major study can be summarized in a 90-minute presentation, after which the consultant goes away and the client is left to “implement” the findings. Oh, that it were so simple. In reality, the “end” of a research project is really just the beginning of a longer process of absorption, reflection, consideration and, hopefully, action. The pathway between research and action, however, is often long and unpredictable. Sometimes it takes three or four exposures to the results of a study before the implications become clear.
The meeting in Columbus was significant in that it represented a breakthrough in the process of uptake. Representatives from Jazz at Lincoln Center, Jazz St. Louis, Monterey Jazz Festival, SFJAZZ and other organizations reflected on the results of the study and were asked to generate ideas for “new or evolved practices that will regenerate the audience for jazz.” Instead of dwelling on all that ails the jazz field, we focused instead on identifying a small number of practices with the potential to move the field forward, such as:
- Conceiving the next generation of jazz venues, including temporary uses of “found” spaces
- Testing new business models for presenting jazz in intimate settings
- New models for artist self-presentation
- Developing programs that combine observational and participatory components
- Programming and educational efforts that accelerate the social transmission of musical tastes
- Linking the live audience experience with acquisition of recordings
- Creating a marketplace for collaborative jazz programming, where artists, presenters and funders can coalesce around new projects
- Developing new vocabulary and images that speak to different segments of the jazz audience.
I was inspired by the quality of thinking. Along with the research results, we will also disseminate the implications for practice – skipping a step in the typical process, and forging a stronger link between research and practice.