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International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

Emerald Article: Jazz musicians: creating service experience in live performance Krzysztof Kubacki

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To cite this document: Krzysztof Kubacki, (2008),"Jazz musicians: creating service experience in live performance", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 20 Iss: 4 pp. 303 - 313 Permanent link to this document: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09596110810873516 Downloaded on: 10-08-2012 References: This document contains references to 29 other documents To copy this document: permissions@emeraldinsight.com

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Jazz musicians: creating service experience in live performance


Krzysztof Kubacki
School of Economic and Management Studies, Chancellors Building, Keele University, Keele, UK
Abstract
Purpose Although music has been indicated by nightclubs and pubs patrons as the most important service offering, the service marketing literature provides very little guidance on how artists could increase their audience satisfaction with an experiential product such as live music. This paper aims to give a wider understanding of jazz musicians experience of their role in the creation of live performance. Design/methodology/approach A total of 12 biographical interviews with 16 professional jazz musicians were completed. Findings The respondents identied audience, agents and venue owners as important elements of their product; however, they were inclined to see their live performance rather as an experience created by the product itself. Practical implications As the quality of relationship between musicians and wider business is in need of signicant improvement, this paper identied potential sources of misunderstanding in a saturated and highly competitive marketplace. Practical implications include the need for venue managers to consider the consequences of poor relations with artists, as a bad practice in that area may negatively affect their ability to sustain their customer base. With the improvements in communication and more understanding for employees feelings, one might create better working conditions, improve work satisfaction and commitment. Originality/value There are few studies that address the relations between musicians and venue owners, and since the music is realized in a social and professional context, practitioners may operate different constructions of what is involved from those of observers. Therefore this paper offers insights into the experience of live music from musicians point-of-view. Keywords Music, Experience, Marketing Paper type Research paper

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Received 29 May 2007 Revised 29 June 2007 Accepted 22 October 2007

Introduction While live performance remains a vital source of income for the majority of musicians, they at the same time play the essential role in the social, economic and cultural life of our communities (Blake and Jeffery, 2000). Signicant numbers of independent artists rely on them nancially, whereas for many others gigs in local pubs and clubs are often their rst steps in a musical career. Yet, those venues employ musicians to provide a better experience for their customers. Frequently, the choice of music played in pubs, restaurants or nightclubs is a crucial factor affecting patrons decision to enter the venue or not. As one research indicates, music is the most popular service offering, ranked by consumers even higher than low prices (Kubacki et al., 2007); an other study shows that customers are willing to pay more for meals in restaurants with live music (Lane, 1990). It is important to note, though, that for many local musicians these places create also a unique opportunity to build and maintain relationships with their fans.

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management Vol. 20 No. 4, 2008 pp. 401-411 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0959-6119 DOI 10.1108/09596110810873516

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Fisher et al. (2002) indicate that the quality of relationship between musicians and wider business is in need of signicant improvement. In their research amongst musicians, none of the key constituencies in the music industry scored more positive than negative ratings, with club owners, nancial institutions and politicians sharing a particularly bad reputation. However, although there is recognition in marketing literature of the role played in the service environment by different front and backstage personnel (e.g. bar staff in Pratten, 2004), customers (Martin and Pranter, 1989), and the effect of music on venues brand image (Areni, 2003) and various aspects of customer behaviour has been extensively studied (see for example Oakes, 2000), there is still a paucity of research into the role, experience and contribution of musicians to the creation of a live performance. While little is known about what motivates consumers to attend performances (Minor et al., 2004), only a handful of studies have investigated artists perceptions of creation and consumption of experiential products such as live music. Although, as Minor et al. (2004) argue, the artists are the focal point for the audience, they are the products and producers (Kubacki and Croft, 2004), and therefore any investigations into live musical performance as a service experience should naturally start with them. Thus, the study reported here aims to explore how jazz musicians understand and experience their role in the production and consumption of a live performance. Live performance Minor et al.s (2004) review of various conceptual tools measuring service quality concludes that currently the service marketing literature provides very little guidance on how artists could increase audience satisfaction with an experiential product such as live music. The earlier research, investigating quality in the performing arts, highlighted the importance of several elements. For example, Throsbys (1990) study of the role of quality in demand for theatre, which can also be applied to musical performance, proposes criteria like technical factors (i.e. standards of production, acting and design), source materials, benets to audiences, society and to the art form itself. The results indicate that factors associated with participants (technical factors), and the nature of the source materials, have a signicant positive inuence on the demand for theatre. -Decarroux (1994) concludes with a similar set of criteria. Further research by Abbe Using data from a theatre company, the author found that only some of those factors excellence and reputation of producers and actors, and popularity of an author may have a positive inuence on live performance attendance. Finally, in the most recent research, Urrutiaguer (2002) constructed a regression equation in an attempt to shed more light on the demand for live performances. The ndings indicate that a theatres reputation is the best sign of the quality of performance. However, in contrary to some -Decarrouxs ndings, the results show the opposing effect of press reviews of Abbe (media reputation of shows) and artistic reputation of directors-cum-managers on live performance attendance. Earls (2001) introspective investigation of advantages and disadvantages of live musical performance, as compared with recorded music, concludes with a list of positive aspects of consumption of live music. Some of them can be classied as social aspects of music consumption, e.g. opportunities for behaviour that would not be allowed at home (e.g. loud music), other social behaviour (dress, opportunity for

sharing judgements), close contact with famous artists or other ritual dimensions (e.g. familiarity of code of behaviour). In his view, live music can also provoke emotional and cognitive responses, namely risk (of musical errors), excitement or curiosity to experience music that may never be available in recorded form (as each concert is unique and specic). Finally, Earl identies live music as an opportunity to sample an art without making any commitment. Although various problems associated by the author with live music performances are signicant for concert organisers or venue managers, the majority of them remain beyond the control of musicians (for example, the audiences transport- and child-related costs, monopolistic suppliers of food and drink and limited editing opportunities). Others, like difculties in seeing the performers or disadvantages of social consumption, can be avoided only in an empty venue. Only the choice of supporting artists and the quality and volume of sound can be to a certain extent, though not always, controlled by the artists. Last but not least, Minor et al.s (2004) attempt to develop a model of audience satisfaction with live performances indicates that certain factors inuence this satisfaction more than others. While many of these elements remain, beyond musicians control (e.g. servicescape elements), sound quality and musicians ability and creativity proved to be important to customers. Surprisingly, musicians interpretation of a song and familiarity of an audience with a song were ranked in the middle of 18 factors. Research methods The majority of earlier research investigated live performance from an audience -Decarroux, 1994; Earl, 2001; Minor et al., 2004; Throsby, 1990; perspective (Abbe Urrutiaguer, 2002). Since the music is realized in a social and professional context, practitioners may operate different constructions of what is involved from those of observers (Macdonald and Wilson, 2005), and therefore the research reported here aims to investigate how jazz musicians understand and experience their role in the production and consumption of live performance. As a signicant amount of earlier research involving musicians relied on interviews as a data collection method (Bradshaw et al., 2005; Groce, 1989; Kubacki and Croft, 2004), all data in this research was collected through in-depth biographical interviews during the summer of 2006. In order to minimise problems of selective memory (Wren, 1991) and ensure comparability of collected data, the interview technique consisted of 20 open-ended questions. As Patton (1990) described it, their purpose was not to put things in someones mind (. . .) but to access the perspective of the person being interviewed. The interviews lasted an average of two hours and covered various elements of the musical careers of the respondents. The respondents were selected carefully in accordance with the requirements of the research, and its aims. In order to delimit the research to something manageable, the data was collected only from jazz musicians as jazz was cast as an improvised music centred on live performance (Macdonald and Wilson, 2005). In total 12 interviews were completed, involving 16 jazz musicians, of whom two were female and 14 male. It was felt by the researcher that this gender bias was representative of the male-dominated jazz community. The youngest respondent was in his late 20s, but ages ranged right up to early 60s, with a median at around 40. Macdonald and Wilson (2005) argued that overwhelming majority of research into identities of musicians has been concentrated on American artists.

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In order to overcome that limitation, and minimise the risk of social, economic and cultural bias, all the data were collected from two different groups of musicians. Six British respondents were interviewed in Wales, while ten Polish respondents were interviewed face-to-face in that country. The majority of interviews were conducted with a single person, though, in order to capture the collective interaction, which Macdonald and Wilson (2005) indicated as the main characteristic of jazz, some of the interviews became dyads and triads, when there was an opportunity to interview more than one band member. Only professional musicians regularly performing live were interviewed. Each interviewee was approached individually after a gig or by telephone. The respondents were asked to tell their career stories in relation to the research interest, explained by the researcher. The objective of biographical interviewing was to reveal the respondents perceptions of the most important elements of their lives and careers. The interviewers contribution to the discussion was in most situations only supposed to facilitate the narration (Langness and Frank, 1991). Findings and discussion The research reported in this paper aimed to investigate through a series of biographical interviews with jazz musicians their understanding and experience of musicians role in the creation and consumption of live musical performances. The Grove et al.s (1992) model of service experience as a drama, which can also be applied to the analysis of live music performance, was selected as a tool for data analysis. It distinguishes between participants (personnel and audience), physical evidence (venue) and process of service assembly (performance). In the centre of the model is the relationship between participants (musicians and audience). However, as a physical element of live music performance remains frequently beyond artists control, this part of the model was not considered in further analysis and discussions. The analysis of the biographical interviews showed a number of key themes emerging. Although many of them given the character and unstructured nature of the data gathering method overlapped one another, in this section the principal topics are drawn out. These seemed broadly to cover four major issues. Process Organisation of live performance. Although from an audience, venue managers and owners perspective the actual experience of live music starts with the rst sounds, there was some telling evidence that musicians perceive it much more widely, beginning with the organisation of gigs. Even though all interviews were conducted with professional musicians, they agreed that in most cases they had to be involved in the organisation of gigs, from the rst contact with a venue to the last note. They complained they had to spend a lot of time trying to sort out things they did not like, as otherwise it will not happen (BM 4[1]). Their opinions were dominated by negative feelings, with a common belief that asking people for gigs is like begging (PM 5[2]). Although for all of the respondents performing live was a livelihood and arranging those concerts should be an integral part of their work, they unanimously agreed that it is very difcult for them to do it unless they have very good personal relationship with venue owners. Despite the fact that the music in a venue was identied by earlier research as one of the most important factors affecting customers behaviour (Kubacki et al., 2007; Lane, 1990), those musicians argued that generally pub owners do not care

what you play, as long as they can make a lot of money (BM2). According to their opinions, only those venue owners that are in very good relationships with musicians would be able to understand their needs. Otherwise, it was a very difcult barrier for all of the musicians, as one of them admitted:
. . . often ringing people up and being comfortable on the phone, to ask for a gig, because you are asking them for something, its like theyve got the upper hand, thats hard (BM1).

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Live performance. The opinions about performing live were divided into two groups. The rst, dominated by much more experienced musicians, favoured views that playing gigs artistically satisfying is the only way to succeed. On the other hand, the youngest interviewees declared that their band can play anything, only to add shyly that its humiliating (PM6). While they believed that the better paid a gig is, the less creative they could be on it, some of the more experienced musicians were more at ease with that type of situation, and just tried to accommodate what their audience wanted. They believed it was simply part of their job, and the main challenge then is to try and nd an extremely beautiful way of doing it (BF1). One of them declared that:
We, as musicians, have to satisfy people who have money, and often we have to go down to their musical level, and if we can play something really good, we should be able to play something only to satisfy those people, they have more fun then, its easier for them, they can understand it. A lot of jazz musicians would rather have nobody listen to them and stay true to the cause (PM8).

Participants Audience. All of the comments made on the subject of live performance led musicians to consider the role of the audience in the creation of their music. The nature of their opinions shows that, as in the quality of theatre production, factors associated with the participants may have a signicant inuence on the quality of live music, not only for an audience, but also for the producers (Throsby, 1990). Although live music offers a unique opportunity to build and maintain relationships between musicians and their fans, even here the opinions were clearly divided into two groups. The rst one blamed audiences for not being prepared to take the same risk as jazz musicians do. They believed audiences were often the worst element of the whole music business, brain-washed by the media and international record companies and ignorant about music. They argued that the kind of people that we all want to come to our gigs is very small in number, the kind of people that sit and enjoy music for musics sake (PM3). Their opinions show that social aspects of music consumption, and what Earl (2001) sees as the positive aspects of live performance, is frequently ignored, at least by that group of artists focused on the intrinsic qualities of their product. Their disappointment with an audience was so strong that one respondent went so far to confess:
In my jazz projects, music that I play, I do what I feel, I never really look at what people want, most of them will never understand my music anyway because they would have to go through those thousands of CDs that Ive listened to . . . experience what I felt then (PM1).

While for Earl (2001) live music creates an opportunity for people to sample an art without making any commitment, for my respondents the idea of being creative in jazz required the audience to think about what musicians do, be actively engaged in the process of music creation and to be adventurous and prepared for experiments. Yet,

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they argued, the reality was somewhat different, and if the sound is not good within the rst ve minutes they (audience) are out of the building (PM6). This kind of behaviour does not encourage creativity, as an audience does not give enough time to music before it loses interest. Although some authors indicated the positive inuence of the -Decarroux, 1994; producers reputation on live performance attendance (Abbe Urrutiaguer, 2002), my musicians, critical of their audience, saw it in a much more negative way:
Theyve heard this person is a legend, but they dont really understand whats going on and often they dont really like it, but because theyve been told this person is this amazing musician they sit there and go oh yeah (BF2).

The second group of musicians was characterised by a more positive attitude towards their audience. They believed that although the audience often did not support their artistic creativity, they had to be able to compromise, empathise with them. Their opinions reect those of Macdonald and Wilsons (2005) respondents, who argued that jazz gigs take place in specic circumstances that must be accepted by musicians. They will always have inner struggles, unless they recognise that there is some part of an audience that treats live music as one element of the whole servicescape, not its focal point. That group of interviewees appeared to agree with those statements, and therefore, they believed they could make their own music, to which their audience was a lot more receptive. For them, the key to a rapport with an audience was its education. Similarly to Minor et al.s (2004) the ndings showing that musicians ability and creativity are signicant for customers, those respondents argued that jazz audiences tend to be more educated and often have done their homework; an audience can feel when musicians play music that they care about, put a lot of emotion into their performance, not only create sounds or do it purely for money and then they will turn up expecting to see something new or something different (PM7). Likewise Earl (2001), they believed people are motivated to experience live music by potential excitement and curiosity. While the rst group blames audiences for lack of communication, these respondents were more willing to admit their shortcomings:
. . . you need to treat them like children basically, and you give them some crazy stuff, but you feed them what they need, like little kittens. And if you do that you can start to educate them. That skill is a major skill and its often missing. I think musicians, when they are experimenting they are not playing for the audience, they play for themselves, and when they play for the audience they dont experiment. You need a bit of both (BM4).

Agents. As problems with organising gigs dominated most interviews, it should not come as a surprise that all respondents agreed that its nice to have someone doing it for you, and quixotically believed that it would be an ideal job if [they] had ve gigs a week that someone else had booked and [they] just turn up and did them (BM2). However, some of the more experienced musicians noticed that in the current situation in jazz there are no people willing to push the artists that much (PM9). Their experience with various agents, managers and music promoters was very diverse. A female musician described the year when she was working with a music promoter as fantastic and brilliant, though:
He found the time to get work for a jazz musician was extremely difcult and demoralising . . . he didnt believe how hard it was just to scrabble few things together (BF1).

Another male musician argued that music promoters interested in jazz are not very trustworthy, and cannot offer any help to musicians, as they want an easy job, . . . just easy money for them (BM2). His colleague argued he had to work ve times harder than if he had an agent, but he preferred to do it that way as he could not nd:
A real agent. . . you know, there is a job, Im gonna take 15%, and you still have to make sure your drum kit is ok, pay your transport, but (. . .) somebody who says you gonna be here with a band, Ill take care of you, which is unrealistic (BM4).

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Finally, the respondents were very articulate in describing problems with agents, managers and music promoters. Still, when asked about their expectations, one of them idealistically argued:
I would be happy to have an agent to book us gigs in the right type of venues, and understood what kind of music we are trying to play, and the audience we are trying to reach (BM3).

Discussion and conclusions Minor et al.s (2004) review of the different conceptual tools measuring service quality concludes that currently service marketing literature provides very little guidance on how artists could increase audience satisfaction with an experiential product such as live music performance. The majority of earlier research investigated the phenomena -Decarroux, 1994; Earl, 2001; Minor et al., only from an audience perspective (Abbe 2004; Throsby, 1990; Urrutiaguer, 2002), and therefore the research reported in this paper aimed to investigate through a series of biographical interviews with jazz musicians their understanding and experience of their role in the creation and consumption of live music. The ndings presented in this paper have implications for venue managers and marketing scholars; they indicate that musicians performing in pubs and clubs perceive certain elements of their work as not enjoyable. The analysis of interviews showed a number of key themes emerging, which broadly covered four major issues: organisation of live performance, live performance itself, audience and agents. They are consistent with Fisher et al.s (2002) ndings that there are serious problems between musicians and venue owners. Identifying the sources of those potential conicts is at the heart of this paper. If venues offering live music are to remain competitive, the issue of developing proper relationships between them and artists might be one of their most signicant challenges. Venue managers might be aware of the importance of waiting staff and chefs to ensure the quality of their offering, but many of them appear to pay less attention to artists. They fail to realise that music is often the main reason why customers enter the venue (Kubacki et al., 2007). Therefore they need to think more carefully about the consequences of poor relations with artists, as bad practice in that area may negatively affect their ability to sustain their customer base. As the physical element of live performance was not analysed in this paper, and should be explored in-depth in future research, musicians comments centred on two remaining parts of the Grove et al.s (1992) model process of service assembly and participants. In regard to the rst element of that model, musicians felt that not only live performance itself was important, but for them the whole process starts with the organisation of gigs. The reluctance of professional musicians to be involved in this may come as a surprise, especially since the whole process was seen by them as

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humiliating and often conicting with their artistic integrity, or even compared by some of the respondents to begging. That unwillingness to be involved in the organisational side of being a musician was magnied by the respondents need to maintain close relationships with venue owners and their declared inability to create only business-like contacts with them, which seemed to be perceived by musicians as lacking any integrity. Therefore one recommendation for venue owners would be to nd a way of making the process of booking of artists as simple and painless as possible. This is because, as far as the artist is concerned, every organisational part of a performance is taking artists away from the core of their product music, decreasing their motivation and commitment. One may argue that artists strong sense of jazz community and reliance on their own networks of friends and colleagues (Macdonald and Wilson, 2005), which create so many opportunities for many artists, impede on the other hand their ability to reach new audiences and expand their earning prospects. On the other hand, there is a clear need for improved communication between artists and venue managers on and off stage, in order to develop relations promoting a more supportive environment and create working conditions in which artists would feel more valued. People have been identied in earlier research as crucial to all aspects of the hospitality industry (Mullins, 2001). It can come as a surprise though that in regard to the latter element of the model participants musicians identied not only audience as an important factor inuencing their product, but also agents, who would take care of the whole organisational side of their work and push the artists. Here the opinions were also divided into two groups the rst one blamed the audience for not understanding their arts, being inuenced by the mass media, and not being able to take the risk that artists do. Their patronising attitude toward the audience was reected in their complete ignorance of music as a more holistic experience in a particular place, time and mood. On the other hand, the second group of musicians was more willing to accommodate the needs of their audience and saw audience education as the way to develop their music. The inner struggles of musicians found in their attitudes towards marketing (Kubacki and Croft, 2004) were also visible amongst jazz musicians performing live. The interviewed artists wanted to play more gigs without having to organise them, push the musical boundaries to their limits and satisfy a mass audience; they wanted to work with an agent, but be independent, take risks, but be safe, play what they like, but be appreciated by others they were trying to reach an accommodation with the commercial world to be appreciated by a wider audience, but on the other hand they aspired to the ideal of artistic purity. The mismatches between their often contradictory needs may prove to be a barrier that the hospitality industry might not be able to overcome. Nevertheless, what should be recognised is that both arts and hospitality industries are what Normann (1984) calls personality industries, and individuals such as artists might need something from work that not always creates direct benets for a venue; they have their own product driven culture. Despite the limitations of small sample this study provides a starting point for further research, which ought to explore the potential solutions to the identied problems from the perspective of venue management, in order to enrich our understanding of the complexities involved in the relationship between artists and venues and create a common ground.

Recommendations In light of studies looking into the experience of music consumption, it appears that jazz musicians may be inclined to see their live performance as an experience created by the product itself and not be able to engage actively with the marketing concept, often using their artistic integrity as a defence mechanism, or sometimes even as an excuse, while other stakeholders in the music business (audience, agents, venue operators) prefer to look at it as the experience enhanced by the musical product. The main recommendation for the venue managers would therefore be to encourage more open communication with artists accepting their needs at the same time, in order to accept musicians as artists rather than operatives (Kubacki and Croft, 2004). Such support might improve artists motivation and commitment, as the most committed employees are those most satised (Firth et al., 2004), and more importantly, as the earlier research indicated, overall job satisfaction is positively correlated with customer-oriented behaviour (Smith et al., 1996). The services management literature is in agreement as to the positive correlation between employee performance and the deliver of high quality services (Zeithaml and Bitner, 2002). On the other hand, artists need to recognise that in many situations they might be only a part of the whole customer experience and that venue managers are responsible for making that experience enjoyable rst and foremost for customers. They, as musicians, have also duty in this area. The one way to do it is to examine how effectively artists can become part of a service team and the attention to employees feelings should be made an integral element of it. The creation of a successful musical product depends upon a variety of factors, the most obvious of which are artists satisfaction and commitment as musicians to perform well need to have a sense of internal quiet and a positive attitude (Lund and Kranz, 1994). Groce (1989) observed that even those musicians who perceived themselves primarily as artists whose creative work was more important than its nancial rewards developed something he called dual identities as creative artists to satisfy their internal needs, and as rnberg and Stockfelt, 1996) as well entertainers to make a living; academic research (Bjo as anecdotal evidence from the industry suggests that this kind of compromising attitude might benet everyone, as the great thing with pubs is that you can, at least, earn a living (Samuels, 2003). Music might be what often brings customers into a pub or club (Kubacki et al., 2007), but it will not keep them there for long or make them come back if the musicians do not connect with the audience. Artists must be excited about the venue they work in and the music they perform; otherwise it will not be possible to create an atmosphere that will satisfy customers and make the whole consumption experience enjoyable.
Notes 1. BM/BF British male respondent/British female respondent. 2. PM/PF Polish male respondent/Polish female respondent. References -Decarroux, F. (1994), The perception of quality and demand for services: empirical Abbe application to the performing arts, Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organization, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 99-107.

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