The Impact of Service Elements on the Artistic Experience: The Case of Classical Music Concerts (Abridged)

By Antonella Carù, Bernard Cova

A trend in the field of marketing is to analyze consumers’ growing preference for being immersed in a thematic setting instead of being offered a finished product.[1] [2] [3] [4]

Ivars Taurins as Herr Handel in Tafelmusik's Sing-Along Messiah. Photo: Gary Beechey

Ivars Taurins as Herr Handel in Tafelmusik’s Sing-Along Messiah. Photo: Gary Beechey

Above and beyond this particular concept, today’s marketing is being driven by a host of new theoretical constructs ranging from experiential marketing[5] [6] to the idea that immersion can be used as a way of designing consumers’ extraordinary experiences.[7] If there is one type of consumer experience where the immersion construct is (and has long been) frequently used, it is the artistic one.[8] In the ideal, this type of experience is akin to diving into the deep end of a pool – it is a total immersion that will transform the individual. In other words, the artistic experience belongs to the category of so-called aesthetic experiences[9] [10] and is a fundamentally embodied one.[11] But as demonstrated so impressively by researchers focusing on the artistic experience[12] [13] and on the appropriation work that must be undertaken[14] [15], immersion can be difficult to achieve – particularly in the case of avant-garde or classical works that from the outset establish a certain distance from the general public, especially if presented within the confines of a designated environment such as a concert hall.

The purpose of the study is to identify those service elements that influence an individual consumer’s immersion in an arts experience.

The “appropriation of space – be it public or private – is tantamount to acting on something that exists outside of yourself, the goal being to make it your own and to recognize your own position within this space”.[16]

Such an approach suggests that consumers summon up certain competencies largely because they wish to become the main builders and co-creators of a given artistic experience[17] and do so by developing a multidimensional (i.e., not only physical but also mental, emotional and spiritual) “home.” Thus, immersion exists when the consumer is able to enact the artistic experience by means of so-called appropriation methods or operations that will allow him/her to minimize or avoid distancing.research-fig1

This metaphorical approach allows us to re-situate the main space-appropriation operations within a theoretical framework capable of accounting for the particular type of appropriation that is at stake in a given artistic experience. The framework shown in Figure 1 can be explained in this way:

Nesting. The individual feels at home because s/he isolates a part of the particular artistic experience, a part that is familiar to him/her because of his/her accumulated experience and foothold in it. The individual will often find comfort in sticking to a single track, instrument or piece of art that s/he tries to control by pushing aside anything else that crops up in the experiential framework.

Investigating. Starting from the nest that has been built in this fashion, the individual explores new elements in order to develop her/his points of anchorage and control (signposts) – for example, by looking through a CD for songs s/he already knows, listening to them again and then listening to the tracks just before or just after them; this enhances knowledge of the context of the particular artistic experience whilst progressively extending one’s territory.

Stamping. The individual attributes a specific meaning to an artistic experience or to a portion of it. This will not be the meaning commonly ascribed to the experience but a personal one, built on the foundations of the individual’s own referents, history and so on. For example, someone invited to a concert by a friend might feel that “for me this is not an 18th-century classical music concert but Toni’s concert, since it was she who invited me to it.” Here, the individual uses creativity to play around with the experience’s context subjectively, whilst imbuing it with his/her own personal meaning.

The consumer is now in a position to access the artistic experience, in whole or in part, thereby becoming immersed.

It should be noted that the processes used to access an experience and/or to apprehend the role of antecedents may diverge due to the varying intensity of the different artistic experiences. Visiting a museum, listening to a concert and watching a film are different processes, so the concepts being analyzed can be applied in various ways. In fact, in each of these experiences the individual’s level of participation will vary; it can be active or passive, and thus have a different effect. One’s involvement/participation will vary as well; it can be physical, intellectual or both.[18] Control over the experience will also vary – for example, in terms of the timing of the event – or else there exists the possibility that only some of the stimuli to which one is being submitted will be selected.

Analysis revealed that the three operations making up the appropriation cycle of an artistic experience can be broken into sub-operations that enrich the overall model. In particular, nesting appears to present a wide range of sensations linked to the search for anchors, both before and during a performance. For the investigating operation, all reports reveal a path lying somewhere between the description of events and the discovery of something. Finally, two activities typified stamping: the ascribing of significance to elements in the experience, and the forming of impressions about the experience itself.


Twelve years later, this theory is more relevant today than ever before, and can be applied to many cultural settings. The full article can be downloaded from the International Journal of Arts Management, Volume 7, Number 2 – Winter 2005


[1] Firat, A.F., and N. Dholakia. 1998. Consuming People: From Political Economy to Theaters of Consumption. London: Routledge.

[2] Firat, A.F., N. Dholakia and A. Venkatesh. 1995. “Marketing in a Postmodern World.” European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 29, no 1, p. 40-56.

[3] Firat, A.F., and C.J. Shultz. 1997. “From Segmentation to Fragmentation: Markets and Marketing Strategy in a Postmodern Era.” European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 31, no 3/4, p. 187-207.

[4] Goulding, C., A. Shankar and R. Elliott. 2002. “Working Weeks, Rave Weekends: Identity Fragmentation and the Emergence of New Communities.” Consumption, Markets and Culture, Vol. 5, no 4, p. 261-284.

[5] Pine, B.J., and J.H. Gilmore. 1999. The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre and Every Business a Stage. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Press.

[6] Schmitt, B.H. 1999. Experiential Marketing: How to Get Customers to SENSE, FEEL, THINK, ACT and RELATE to Your Company and Brands. New York: Free Press.

[7] Arnould, E., L. Price and G. Zinkhan. 2002. Consumers. New York: McGraw-Hill.

[8] Duhaime, C., A. Joy and C. Ross. 1995. “Learning to ‘See’: A Folk Phenomenology of the Consumption of Contemporary Canadian Art.” In Contemporary Marketing and Consumer Behavior: An Anthropological Sourcebook, J.F. Sherry, ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, p. 351-398.

[9] Csikszentmihalyi, M., and R.E. Robinson. 1990. The Art of Seeing. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum.

[10] Denzin, N.K. 1992. Symbolic Interactionism and Cultural Studies: The Politics of Interpretation. Cambridge: Blackwell.

[11] Joy, A., and J.R. Sherry. 2003. “Speaking of Art as Embodied Imagination: A Multi-sensory Approach to Understanding Aesthetic Experience.” Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 30, September, p. 259-282.

[12] Spranzi, A. 2001. “L’innovazione nel marketing dell’arte: Un caso paradigmatico di economia dell’inovazione.” Sinergie, Rapporto di ricerca, no 11.

[13] Weltzl-Fairchild, A., and L.M. Dubé. 1998. “Le multi-média peut-il aider à réduire la dissonance cognitive?” Publics et Musées, no 13, p. 17-28.

[14] Caune, J. 1999. Pour une éthique de la médiation: le sens des pratiques culturelles. Grenoble: Presses de l’Université de Grenoble.

[15] Ficht, B.T. 2000. À l’ombre de la littérature. Montréal: XYZ.

[16] Serfaty-Garzon, P. 2003a. Chez soi. Les territoires de l’intimité. Paris: Armand Collin, p. 89.

[17] Joy, A., and J.R. Sherry. 2003. “Speaking of Art as Embodied Imagination: A Multi-sensory Approach to Understanding Aesthetic Experience.” Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 30, September, p. 259-282.

[18] Pine, B.J., and J.H. Gilmore. 1999. The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre and Every Business a Stage. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Press.

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