Why do musicians like Elton John find retirement so difficult? A music psychology expert explains

With his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, Elton John has confirmed his latest retirement plans. The tour’s final show in July 2023 will be his last. However, deja vu suggests that this may not be the last we see of Elton.

The singer has announced plans to retire at least five times since 1984, but he’s still going strong. By the end of his current tour, Elton John will have performed over 300 concerts in the UK, US and Europe and he shows no signs of slowing down. It will be headline news at Glastonbury in 2023.

Elton isn’t the only artist with a history of retirement and non-retirement. He’s in good company with Barbra Streisand, justin bieberJay-Z, Lily Allen and Phil Collins.

Hip-hop star Nicki Minaj’s retirement lasted just 22 days, while heavy metal singer Ozzy Osbourne’s No More Tours tour in 1992 preceded another 30 years of performing.

Unlike lavishly rewarded performances on the world stage, retirement can be an on-and-off pipe dream for many musicians. The long, unsociable hours in the music industry often offer modest pay and few benefits available in other industries.

There is no mandatory retirement age in the UK, which can be a boon for lower-earning professional performers who find saving for an adequate pension beyond their reach. ways. In these cases, working beyond the third age is a necessity.

For Elton and his internationally renowned peers, however, the incentive to return to the show is less likely to be financial. So why do some successful musicians find it so difficult to hold their retirement?

The motivation of the scene

The key to understanding this lies in motivation.

For many musicians, the motivation to perform is intrinsic rather than extrinsic. Extrinsically motivated performers are interested in tangible rewards such as money. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is present when a musician performs primarily because of a strong inner desire to make music.

For intrinsically motivated performers, making music is inherently enjoyable and a means unto itself. This partly explains why the profession of musician remains attractive even if it does not always bring the financial security of other careers. It also explains why some famous artists find it difficult to stay out of the public arena.

Among those with a passion for music, the rewards for performance often outweigh the financial benefits. The status and accolades that come with a career as a famous performer provide a source of affirmation that can become difficult to obtain elsewhere.

Once human beings have met their basic needs for food, water, shelter, and relationships, self-actualization becomes an important driving force. For dedicated performers, success in the musical sphere can become an irreplaceable vehicle for achieving self-esteem, personal growth, and the satisfaction of fulfilling their potential.

You’re only as good as your last performance

Identity is also central to the motivation to perform. Continuing to perform professionally can bring validation to musicians, regardless of their level of income and recognition.

Nicki Minaj attends Met Gala Celebrating Camp 2019: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

For many, being a musician is inextricably linked to their self-esteem. Their self-esteem is then strongly affected by their ability to perform. This is especially true for singers, as the voice is integral to the formation and expression of identity.

There’s some truth to the old adage, “You’re only as good as your last performance.” If you’re not performing at all, how good can you be?

For retired musicians, it can be difficult to find a comparable way to channel the energy they once devoted to performing.

Musicians, like other professional groups, are diverse in many ways, but there are certain personality traits that different types of musicians tend to share.

For example, classical musicians typically score high in introversion, which partly explains their ability to focus on the solitary practice needed to develop technique before committing to ensemble playing.

In contrast, rock and pop musicians tend to score high on extroversion, often learning and rehearsing more informally in collaboration with their peers. Outgoing performers often get their energy from interacting with the audience, so it can be hard to get that “buzz” once the music stops.

do not stop me now

Playing music is widely recognized as a way to achieve the highly desired state of “flow”, otherwise known as “peak performance” or being “in the zone”.

Provided the challenge of playing closely matches the skill level of the performer, music can become an absorbing activity, so immersive that it distorts our sense of time and distracts us from our daily concerns. During live concerts, the public and the performers can feel a “collective effervescence” rarely achieved elsewhere.

Add to that the emotional high derived from the adrenaline released during a public performance and we can begin to understand why performance rewards can be hard to replace in retirement.

Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music”, Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” and Elton’s “I’m Still Standing” are ways these musicians tell us they want to be in the limelight. the ramp, just as much as their audience wants them to stay there.

Michael Bonshor, Course Director, Music Psychology in Education, Performance and Wellbeing, University of Sheffield

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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