“I’m there to play music not break up fights”: gigging entertainers’ experiences of alcohol-related misbehaviour by audiences and its impact on performance
Forsyth, A., Lennox, J.C. and Cloonan, M. (2016). ‘”I'm there to play music not break up fights”: gigging entertainers’ experiences of alcohol-related misbehaviour by audiences and its impact on performance’. Popular Music, 35, pp 245-264. DOI:10.1017/S0261143016000088.
Despite the fact that drinking and music often share a space, the relationship between alcohol-related misbehaviour and live music has received little academic attention. Music has been demonstrated to influence drinking behaviour and entertainers have been observed influencing (‘soft-policing’) drunken misbehaviour by audiences. However, to date research has not given voice to those providing this musical entertainment. Are they aware of the effects they have on audiences’ drinking behaviour and does this impact on performances? Our qualitative research fills this lacuna by drawing on the experiences of gigging entertainers to explore how they deal with intoxicated audiences. Interviews conducted as part of this research highlighted a lack of preparation on the part of performers for dealing with disorderly crowds and/or the unwanted attentions of drunken individuals; they usually have to learn appropriate responses ‘on the job’. Success as a gigging entertainer was felt to be only partly founded upon artistic merit, with an ability to engage the (often inebriated) public being equally important. Although none had received formal training in alcohol issues as musicians, some utilised people skills (e.g. conflict resolution techniques) acquired via other employment. The authors ask if there is a place for training in alcohol-related issues to be offered by or integrated into music curriculums.