Much of the concern around Covid 19 and live jazz music has centred on the effects of the virus on the destruction of regular work in performance and education. Rather less has looked at wishes and concerns of the audience members. JazzLeeds carried out this survey of its audience in mid-June 2020 to help find this out.
JazzLeeds is a charity run by volunteers. Due to the virus we have cancelled or postponed the Leeds Jazz Festival (July) and the Village Jazz Festival in Chapel Allerton (September) as well as all our regular concerts and workshops up to the beginning of October. 137 people responded on Survey Monkey in June 2020 following a call out to our JazzLeeds mailing list and Facebook page.
1 Indoor concerts
The most startling headline was that although most people said they would return to live concerts, only 16% of the regular JazzLeeds audience is ready to come back right now, even with appropriate social distancing measures in place. Looking ahead that figure rises somewhat – but still only 54% of the audience said they would consider returning within 6 months.
This effectively rules out live indoor gigs in the near future, even before we take into account how many people our venues can accommodate through social distancing.
2 Outdoor concerts
More people said they would consider attending outdoor concert at the present time – 49% of those who responded. Typical comments here were these:
“Outdoor performances should be possible this summer – with appropriate social distancing of course” and “I suppose that having an open bar within easy reach of an outdoor venue is too much to hope for?”
3 The Jazz audience
The structure of the jazz audience helps to explain much of this reluctance. 58% of those who responded were over 60 (38% were between 25 and 59) and the majority were male (65%) – so most of our respondents were from categories with higher risks from Covid 19. We had few responses from those aged under 25, although our previous audience surveys do show that this has been regularly 10-15% of the total.
This response was typical
“I found your shows of real value, but as a near 80-year old audience member who is self-isolating I find it difficult to propose how you should plan. I am avoiding all risks that I can avoid, so being in an audience in present circumstances has no appeal whatsoever. A lot of things are going to have to change before I ‘go out in public’”.
4 Live streaming
Anecdotally we know that our audience like the intimate atmosphere at our two main venues (Seven Arts and Inkwell in Chapel Allerton) and that as organisers we have become adept at developing a “buzz” at our venues by encouraging close proximity between bands and audience. This is not possible now, however the alternative – live streaming of concerts and open-air concerts was not a particularly popular alternative. Most people (58% of the total) were only willing to pay only £5 or less for watching live streamed performances. This response was typical
“I’m not interested in live streaming. To me it isn’t a substitute for live music, though I appreciate that isn’t presently possible. I’ll just have to wait for real live music to return”.
We asked the respondents for any ideas they had about how we could return to putting on live jazz now and in future. Some people suggesting adopting a “wait and see” approach for indoor events and that we try out live streaming and outdoor events in the mean time – here are some examples
“I would be happier attending an outside venue sooner than an indoor one. At the moment the fact we can’t use public transport except for “essential” journeys would prevent me attending any. I’m not against paying for streaming concerts but I spend all day working on a computer and don’t want to spend my leisure time stuck in front of one”.
“The social distancing rule simply won’t work. It’s ok queuing to go in to a supermarket. Small gigs might work, but they aren’t going to pay the musicians. I’ve watched quite a few live streamed gigs, but unfortunately the extra dimension of being there is lost. One live stream I watched was particularly disappointing & put me off the whole idea. It’s possible that an outdoor park venue might work, but who can trust the weather! The biggest problem I see and others I’ve spoken to agree, is that they can trust themselves to stick to the rules of social separation, but they can’t trust others & until you can, it’s very difficult to see how to progress unless it’s via streaming”.
“Drive-In Jazz? Using a City Council “field” and “tent”. Maybe Kirkstall Abbey?”
And from one response …. “Just take a risk. Live music will die if we don’t get on with it. Musicians are suffering psychologically and financially”.
Putting on a live JazzLeeds programme at present looks to be a non-starter given the results of the survey. A mixture of outdoor bands over the summer and livestreaming in the autumn seems to be an alternative, hopefully to resume the main live programme sometime later – maybe in January 2021. We would however need to resurvey the audience after the summer as the situation changes.
Steve Crocker Jazz Leeds
28 June 2020
Thanks to Rosemary Holmes for devising the questionnaire and tabulating the results.