Elton John has announced plans to retire at least five times since 1984. However, he’s still going. By the end of his current tour, the rock legend will have performed in over 300 concerts in the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Europe. He shows no sign of slowing down.
The Conversation’s recent article, “Why do musicians like Elton John find retirement so tough? A music psychology expert explains,” says that Elton isn’t the only performer with a history of retiring and unretiring. The list includes Barbra Streisand, Justin Bieber and Phil Collins. Hip-hop star Nicki Minaj’s retirement lasted only 22 days, and heavy metal singer Ozzy Osbourne’s valedictory No More Tours tour in 1992 came with another 30 years of touring.
For Elton and his internationally acclaimed peers, the incentive to return to performing is unlikely to be financial. Experts say that the key to understanding 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 is present when a musician performs mainly because of a strong inner desire to make music.
Among those with a passion for music, the rewards of performance often exceed the financial benefits. The status and accolades derived from a celebrated performance career provide a source of affirmation that can become hard to find elsewhere. Moreover, identity is also a key component in the motivation to perform. Continuing to perform professionally can provide validation for musicians like Sir Elton, regardless of the level of income and recognition. Being a musician can also be inextricably linked with their sense of self. Their self-worth is strongly impacted by their capacity to perform.
For retired musicians, finding a comparable way to channel the energy they once dedicated to performance can be challenging. For example, classical musicians typically score highly on introversion. This may account for their ability to focus on the solitary practice necessary for developing technique, before engaging in ensemble playing. However, rock and pop musicians usually score highly on extroversion, often learning and rehearsing more informally in collaboration with their peers. In addition, extroverted performers often get their energy from audience interaction. As a result, it can be challenging to achieve that “buzz” once the music stops.
The emotional high derived from the adrenaline released in public performance can be hard to duplicate in retirement.
Reference: The Conversation (January 11, 2023) “Why do musicians like Elton John find retirement so tough? A music psychology expert explains”