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Jazz Audiences Initiative

What is the Jazz Audiences Initiative?

Jazz Audiences InitiativeThe Jazz Audiences Initiative will tackle fundamental questions about how and why people engage with jazz. Jazz artists and presenters nationwide will learn new ideas for building audiences, and infusing the art form with new energy. Over the next 21 months, the project team will research and test new strategies for overcoming barriers to jazz participation and for building jazz audiences through more targeted marketing and programming efforts.

Why is this work necessary?

Relatively little research has been done on jazz audiences and what they value. We know that jazz audiences are aging, jazz media outlets and festivals are fading, jazz organizations are struggling, and jazz musicians are overly burdened. In addition, the jazz field lacks meaningful opportunities to network and learn as a professional community.

Simultaneously, we know that in general, audiences crave participative, interactive and intimate experiences that they help create. They make last minute decisions to attend events, and subscription buyers have declined drastically. As more people look to create a “work-life” balance, they are interested in modest “perfect moments” as a result of experiences that are authentic, community-based and unforgettable.[1]

The long-term sustainability of jazz depends on new knowledge and insight about the needs, attitudes and motivations of existing and potential audiences.

Key Research Questions

  • What does “jazz” mean to people? How do people relate to jazz as an art form?
  • How do people develop preferences for different forms of jazz?
  • What are the pathways into the art form?
  • How much “taste diversity” is there within the jazz audience?
  • What kinds of live jazz experiences do people want?
  • How does setting affect preference and attendance?
  • What are the connections between attendance and personal practice?

What work will be undertaken?

The Jazz Audiences Initiative will be comprised of three main tracks:

Track 1:
Investigate and create deeper understanding of the musical tastes, and perceptions of jazz and music preferences, with particular attention on the language used to describe the music
. This work will qualitatively explore the potential jazz market in Columbus. Research will begin by exploring how people construct preferences for different forms of music and especially jazz, and what language they use to describe it. This will involve comparing what styles of music people say they like, with how they respond to various types of music played when they actually hear it. In other words, we’ll see how their perceptions align with their actual tastes. This research will create a new vocabulary for describing jazz and will reveal how jazz artists and presenters can communicate about jazz more effectively.

Track 2:
Develop new segmentation models for current jazz audiences and potential jazz audiences.

This track will have two components:
1) survey current jazz audiences in a number of cities nationwide to understand their attitudes and behaviors related to jazz – knowledge and experience, modes of engagement, consumption patterns, preferences and tastes – and develop a new model of jazz audiences.

2) Develop a simpler “market model” for prospective jazz audiences by surveying music lovers in Columbus who do not attend live jazz concerts. These new tools will inform the development of new marketing and programming strategies to broaden the audience for jazz.

Topics to be investigated in the jazz segmentation research:

  • Knowledge, experience, and familiarity with jazz
  • Preferences for other genres of music
  • Preferences for different styles of jazz/overall ability to express preferences for different types of jazz
  • Past and current participatory involvement with music
  • Past and current patterns of attendance at live jazz concerts
  • Venues attended for live jazz concerts/setting preferences
  • Ownership of jazz recordings in various formats/use of digital listening technologies
  • Intentions or aspirations for future behavior – attendance, digital consumption, and personal practice
  • Personal beliefs and core values related to culture
  • Demographics are NOT allowed to drive the model

Track 3:
Nurture and sustain a community of practice.
A vital element of the Jazz Audiences Initiative is developing and sustaining a learning group of project partners and jazz stakeholders to discuss and debate the use and implications of the research findings. To support this work, an online community will be created with discussion threads, message boards, research posts, music samples, and other data related to the project. The intent is to host meaningful conversations that support the project, and to translate research findings and lessons into support for the everyday work that happens in arts organizations. The jazz field is lacking in networking and convening opportunities and the “community of practice” will help fill that void during the Initiative and into the future. The community of practice will convene in Columbus in June 2011.

Implications of the market and segmentation work:

  • Strategies for how to engage more people with jazz (all types of experiences)
  • Ideas for what types of involvement opportunities (programs, venues) will speak to a larger constituency
  • Ideas for how to message more effectively about jazz to current and potential audiences
  • A multi-dimensional community of practice for jazz professionals supports ongoing dissemination of information and diffusion of effective new ideas and practices

How is this work possible?

Financial support has been secured from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Some matching funds have been secured from the Ohio Arts Council and the Greater Columbus Arts Council. The Jazz Education Network (JEN) and AllAboutJazz.com will provide in-kind support for disseminating the new knowledge.

Who is doing the work?

Christy Farnbauch, Strategic Links, LLC, has been hired as the project director, with JAG Director of Marketing & Communications Scott Vezdos actively participating in the study. The team of highly skilled professional researchers with national and international credentials in helping organizations understand and use audience participation trends and data will include:

    • Alan S. Brown, Principal; Rebecca Ratzkin, Consultant; and Jennifer Novak-Leonard, Senior Consultant, WolfBrown
    • Joe Heimlich, Professor and Specialist, OSU Extension@ COSI, and Senior Research Associate, Institute for Learning Innovation
    • Jerry Yoshitomi, Chief Knowledge Officer, Meaning Matters, LLC

National Research Partners with the Jazz Arts Group:

National Information and Dissemination Partners:


About the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation:

DDCF-ColorLogo-smallThe mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and the prevention of child maltreatment, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties.

The foundation’s Arts Program supports performing artists in contemporary dance, jazz and theatre, and the nonprofit arts organizations that nurture these artists and produce and present these art forms.