Tuesday November 03, 2020

Musician Survey during Covid Restrictions 2020


By Andrew Liddle

The Questions:

1. Have you continued to practise?
2. Do you see yourself playing in public again once you are allowed to?
3. Do you think your band will survive the virus?
4. Have you been tested positive for the virus?
5. Do you think you have, or may have had the virus?

In Fred’s survey of jazz musicians polled from all around the country, 136 replied.  In answer to the first question:  ‘Have you continued to practise?’, the vast majority gave an unqualified yes. Only one enthused about the extra opportunity to practise even more. A couple suggested, on the contrary, they thought they should have done more. The ‘off and on’ and ‘not a lot’ responses seem to indicate only intermittent application. ‘Much less than usual’ is a frank admission that more could have been done.

It’s easier to count the negatives. 15 gave the outright denial. One said ‘not really’, another said ‘hardly’, both of which may be taken as a no. ‘Unable due to hand injury’ is a reluctant no. In all, there were nineteen whom it is safe to assume did not practise.

In statistical terms, then, about 14 percent of musicians canvassed confess to not having practised;  suggesting about 86 percent have. This is, perhaps, the most objective of the three jazz-related questions and clearly has yielded positive answers, suggesting grounds for optimism.

Do you see yourself playing in public again once you are allowed? asks musicians to speculate on their own responses to unknown variables, chief of which is how long will the ban endure, the disease endure  and whether playing 'in public'  may actually connote  frequency or regularity or the occasional gig. The overwhelming majority believe that resumption is likely.  Five musicians show a positive frame of mind though alluding to the uncertainties, expressing hope, possibility and cautious optimism. The bleakest records ‘realistically no’, citing jazz clubs’ attendances already being in decline. In all, it seems 26 range from doubt to uncertainty whilst 95 give an unequivocal yes and in total 110 believe that resumption is likely.  Around 80 percent, then, are optimistic.

Do you think your band will survive the virus? There must presumably be some distinct correlation between the second question and this, although again there are variables because some musicians play in more than one band and some describe themselves as freelance. 12, about 8 percent of those polled give the flat no, but if to these are added those who express mild or serious doubts the figure is much higher.  Responses range from referencing the age of the band members (‘No dead, or too old’) as the chief determinant to simple pessimism even if tempered by wary hope.  In a sense, those who responded merely expressing hope without conviction (’hopefully’) wasted their opportunity to contribute to statistical analysis.  Which interested party would not express hope? Of those who did not give an identifiable yes, regardless of whether it was a ringing endorsement or not, in one form of words or another, there were some 30, representing about 22 per cent. We can conclude that some 78 percent were optimistic.

Clearly, then, there seems to be a correlation between those who think they will play in public again and those who think their band will survive.

The last two questions are of  an epidemiological nature  rather than jazz-related. Have you been tested positive for the virus? Mercifully only 3 of those polled had tested positive for Covid. The final  question (Do you think you have, or may have had the virus?), points up the possibility that many people may have had the dreaded disease without having been tested for it or diagnosed as having it. About ten seem to put themselves into this category. Again the many variables - of age, health, possible occupation, lifestyle and place of residence - would tend to limit conclusions, and they are not precisely relevant in the jazz sense.

I have to say that neither the poll nor my analysis are scientific. Neither Fred nor myself are statisticians or pollsters – both of which types usually seem to get things wrong anyway. We are well-meaning individuals with a lifelong love of traditional forms of jazz and a fervent hope it will survive. What can be clearly discerned from the poll is that there is considerable hope that it will.  There is nothing that can be seen as indicating real despondency. The vast majority of musicians are still practising and feel they will play again in public, presumably with their existing bands.

This is very positive news, particularly when set aside the gloomy predictions being voiced by scientists, economists, business people  and members of the general public as we head into a second lockdown.

It would be very interesting to know what Fred’s poll would have thrown up had it been conducted before Covid appeared and had merely asked about the future of a musical genre which appealed largely (though not exclusively) to an older generation.  It would also be highly illuminating to be able to compare these findings with similar polls, if they existed, of other musical genres, not least other forms of jazz, as well as other types of public entertainment available in similar venues.

I wonder if Fred contemplates a second poll, of all his readers which include people from all round the world. The single most interesting question expressed in the most positive way might be:  do you intend to return to your  jazz club when it re-opens?

Andrew Liddle



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