Scottish Jazz Federation survey

The Scottish Jazz Federation (an umbrella organisation of jazz promoters throughout the country the development agency for jazz in Scotland) last month published a report, “Jazz Now! Jazz Audiences in Scotland: research and benchmarking” which looks at the current audience for live jazz and explores some possible ways of increasing it.

East Midlands Jazz did a similar report for their part of the UK a few years back, but this is the first specifically Scottish analysis of the jazz audience I’ve seen.

So, assuming you go to live jazz in Scotland, who are you?

If you’re a typical audience member, you are:

  • 41 years old on average
  • Slightly more likely to be male than female (55% to 45%)
  • Probably middle-class, although “the current jazz audience is more socio-economically diverse than other live music audiences”
  • A musical omnivore with wide-ranging tastes

What else is in the report?

There’s an analysis of the jazz audience according to frequency of attendance at jazz gigs. One interesting finding in this section is that people who don’t go to a lot of gigs tend to think of price as a guarantee of quality. If it’s cheap, their thinking seems to be, it can’t be any good. (There’s no research into whether higher prices would deter more regular attenders from going along to gigs as frequently as they currently do).

There’s also comparisons of the jazz festival audience with the non-festival audience and of the jazz audience with that for other genres of live music (classical, folk and indie pop). This leads to the suggestion that since most people who attend live music are interested in more than one genre, the potential audience is the 41% of people in Scotland who go to live music events, and not just the 5% who currently attend jazz ones.

One of the obstacles to be overcome is hinted at in word clouds indicating what people think a live jazz performances is like. Those who already go to hear live jazz know they are “exciting”, “fun” and “entertaining”; whereas those who listen to live music but not to jazz think they will be “interesting” but also “pretentious” and “boring”.

There are two development proposals put forward at the end of the paper:

  1. A Northern Scotland promoters’ network, to encourage greater co-ordination and co-operation between promoters so that musicians can be offered mini-tours of the Highlands, Islands and Northeast rather than one-off gigs.
  2. A medium-scales venues network which can offer bigger name acts a series of Scottish dates rather than isolated single performances. Annoyingly, none of the venues mentioned as possibilities for this circuit are in Glasgow. What about the CCA, the RSAMD, the Tron Theatre, the Strathclyde Suite or Oran Mor? I know none of these are perfect, but surely they’re better than nothing? Or is it lack of a willing promoter that’s the problem?

There’s far more in the report than I’ve been able to summarise here. I suggest you go to the Scottish Jazz Federation website and read the whole thing. There are one or two things in it I’ll probably pick up and say something about in the next few weeks.