First, why and how we did this survey

The Ottawa Jazz Festival's 2011 lineup generated a record number of impassioned opinions. In response, the OttawaJazzScene.ca editors decided to undertake this OttawaJazzScene.ca 2011 Ottawa Jazz Survey to measure listeners' reactions to what was actually presented. This is the first report of our findings.

2000 invitations to participate in the survey were printed, and handed out
2000 invitations to participate in the survey were printed, and handed out

We also wanted to gather jazz listeners' collective opinions on the all-year Ottawa-Gatineau jazz and improvised music scene for the first time. Because of OttawaJazzScene.ca's deliberate role as an independent media outlet, we were in an ideal position to undertake an unbiased survey. We don't accept thousands of dollars of advertising from the Ottawa Jazz Festival as other media outlets do, nor do we perform with jazz musicians. We considered that it was perhaps even our responsibility to jazz and improvised music fans to do this survey.

The polling effort and cost of a randomly sampled survey was beyond our resources this time. Such a survey may have even been premature without some experience. Instead, we made considerable effort to poll as many listeners as possible. 2000 survey information leaflets were printed, and handed out to listeners arriving or departing concerts at the NAC (4th Stage Improv Series, Studio Series), late night jams, and leaving Confederation Park after the evening concerts, on four evenings.


We polled only in public places like city sidewalks at festival entrances. We tried to poll listeners of all types, including the first-time festival-goers who attended to hear a non-jazz show, long-time festival-goers, and listeners of both genders and different ages. We advertised the survey on OttawaJazzScene.ca, on twitter and Facebook, in our weekly email newsletter, in local music stores, and with Internet advertising. We made a best effort to be widely inclusive.

Because the survey was open to anyone with Internet access to participate, we also undertook steps to prevent multiple entries from a single person, while keeping the survey open to all legitimate and welcomed participants; for example, multiple members of the same family. That said, nobody associated with the survey design, including at OttawaJazzScene.ca, participated. And while the survey was open to Ottawa Jazz Festival employees and those directly making money from the festival, we did ask them to identify themselves so we could be sure that there was no inappropriate attempt or campaign to influence the survey results specifically about the Festival.

Considerable effort was put into developing unbiased questions, although we're sure there is always room for improvement. We wanted the OttawaJazzScene.ca survey to reflect what listeners actually thought, not what we thought, or wished they were thinking.

The survey was anonymous, so that all listeners, including those who might play a more active role in the Ottawa-Gatineau jazz scene, would feel comfortable in completely and honestly expressing their opinions.

Our biggest acknowledgement must go to the listeners who took the time to participate in our first jazz survey. Without a doubt, completing it required considerable thought and time to respond. That was clearly demonstrated when one listener took more than 22 minutes to provide very thoughtful answers on one single question page, and thus discovered a survey software timeout which we were not aware of. Although that respondent had their incomplete survey automatically submitted to that point, they lost some responses. That did not deter them from responding again (after we had extended the timeout to allow several hours) It was the determination and thoughtful participation from that listener and so many of you that made the many hours to plan, design, test, market, poll, analyze, and report a pleasure. We did miss some great music at the Festival while we rushed to pull this together but your responses made that worthwhile.

As this was first survey of its kind, we did not know what to expect in terms of responses. We were therefore pleased that a significant number of listeners (152) responded. Because the survey was anonymous we don't know who you are. But we would like to extend to each and every one of you our greatest appreciation for being a part of this. Thank-you gifts were obtained and randomly awarded to survey participants, as identified by those who signed up to the weekly email newsletter around the time of the survey period. We are in the process of contacting winners.

Software bugs! Our report would be remiss without mentioning the hassles we had to deal with behind the scenes to get our data properly out of the web surveying software and through a spreadsheet (for data validation and cleanup), into a database for analysis. We unexpectedly pushed different software to and beyond its limits with what we considered a 'simple' survey. Lessons were learned. Because we wanted to be sure that every single response was properly included in our report, this project took far more effort and time than we expected. I apologize for the delay, but not for our commitment to getting it right. There is nothing more frustrating that having a large set of excellent responses and not being able to process it. If “recoding the response character set from UTF-8 to ISO-8859-1 allowed it to fit into the 65,535 row size limit of mysql” or “quotes were not properly escaped in the CSV export, causing database import failure” means anything to you, drop me an email and we can swap bug war-stories :-)

Comments? We welcome any you care to share. We have opened the OttawaJazzScene.ca Facebook page for user comments. Please 'like' our page (helping others to discover us) and share any comments inspired by our survey results. We would also ask that any public references to this survey refer to it as The OttawaJazzScene.ca 2011 Ottawa Jazz Survey and link back here, in support of our work. If you have any private comments or questions please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We hope that you will find the results as interesting as we did and that they will give us all some insight about why the Ottawa-Gatineau jazz and improvised music scene is vibrant and how its future might evolve, at the Ottawa Jazz Festival and all-year long.

Brett Delmage
analyst and author, The OttawaJazzScene.ca 2011 Ottawa Jazz Survey
publisher, OttawaJazzScene.ca
member, Jazz Journalists Association

© Copyright 2011, Brett Delmage,  OttawaJazzScene.ca. All rights reserved.
Those citing this survey and possibly republishing short, attributed excerpts allowed by fair dealing under Canadian copyright law are respectfully asked to provide a hyperlink back to our full survey report at OttawaJazzScene.ca. Please refer to this survey as “The OttawaJazzScene.ca 2011 Ottawa Jazz Survey”. Thank you.

The Ottawa Jazz Festival context

Jazz was not headlined much in the 2011 Ottawa Jazz Festival program cover
Jazz was not headlined much in the 2011 Ottawa Jazz Festival program cover
Our report starts with what was the most controversial programming of the 2011 Ottawa Jazz Festival: the Main Stage concerts. Anyone paying attention since the 2011 Jazz Festival's April media launch knew this was already an issue. Still, we were surprised by the amount and degree of strong comment that was expressed.

To understand the survey results better, it is valuable to review the changes that the Ottawa Jazz Festival made in 2011 and in recent years. A record number of non-jazz Main Stage acts were presented this year: 6, as compared to only 0 or 1 in most of the past ten years. It was non-jazz acts that were most prominently featured as the headliners in the festival's advertising, in printed materials like the program, and on the Festival's banners and signage.

The Connoisseur Series (“Anniversary Series” in 2010) was a very popular series that was held starting at 4 p.m. in the National Library and Archives auditorium for the past 10 years. It was canceled this year. The programming that most closely replaced it was in the Studio Series. However the Studio Series start time was moved from its traditional 10:30 p.m. (8 p.m. start in 2010 as the “Friends Series”) to 7 p.m. (with some second performances at 9 p.m.). This put the Studio Series in direct conflict with the Improv Invitational Series, which also started at 7 p.m, and with Great Canadian Jazz on the main stage which started at 6:30 p.m. These two series were most likely to have artists that would appeal to the jazz listener.

The OLG Late Series stage, starting at 10:30 p.m. shifted programming to much louder, more rock-oriented performers. As a result, on many evenings, jazz fans looking for something to listen to after their 7 p.m. show found less jazz-oriented music at 8:30 p.m. when their early show ended.

The overall impact of the Ottawa Jazz Festival's 2011 programming and scheduling changes was to increase the conflicts among jazz concerts that many listeners could hear, and wanted to hear.

The 2011 edition of the Ottawa Jazz Festival was largely programmed without a programming manager, under the direction of Executive Producer Catherine O'Grady. Petr Cancura joined the Festival in January, replacing Jacques Emond who retired the previous year. The vast majority of the bookings had, necessarily, been made by then. [See Ottawa Jazz Festival Programmer Petr Cancura talks about the 2011 Festival]