Between the crowd and the band: performance experience, creative practice, and wellbeing for professional touring musicians

International Journal of Wellbeing 10 (5):5-26 (2020)
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In some musical genres, professional performers play live shows many times a week. Arduous touring schedules bring encounters with wildly diverse audiences across many different performance ecologies. We investigate the kinds of creativity involved in such repeated live performance, kinds of creativity that are quite unlike songwriting and recording, and examine the central factors that influence musicians’ wellbeing over the course of a tour. The perspective of the professional musician has been underrepresented in research on relations between music and wellbeing, with little attention given to the experience of touring. In this case study, we investigate influences on positive and negative performance experiences for the four professional musicians of Australian pop/rock band Cloud Control. Geeves conducted intensive cognitive ethnographic fieldwork with Cloud Control members over a two-week national Australian tour for their second album, Dream Cave (2013). Adapting a Grounded Theory approach to data analysis, we found the level of wellbeing musicians reported and displayed on tour to be intimately linked to their creative performance experiences through the two emergent, overarching and interdependent themes of Performance Headspace (PH) and Connection with Audience (CA). We explore these themes in detail and provide examples to demonstrate how PH and CA can feed off each other in virtuous ways that positively shape musicians’ wellbeing, or loop in vicious ways that negatively shape musicians’ wellbeing. We argue that their creative practice, in thus re-enacting musical performance afresh in each venue’s distinctive setting, emerges within unique constraints each night, and is in a sense a co-creation of the crowd and the band.

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