Any fans of the Who out there? If so, you'll know that the English rock band is embarking on what seems to be their 15th "farewell" tour this summer.
They're not alone. The last twenty years have given us countless examples of bands who said goodbye, only to reemerge a few years later on highly lucrative "comeback tours."
And I can't blame them. Given seismic shifts in the music industry, driven most prominently by file sharing, there's no money to be made in record sales. Artists who license a song to a car commercial, for example, can certainly get paid, but that money only goes to the songwriter, not to the poor, maladjusted drummer. And so the only consistent way to make money as a musician is through touring.
It's a reality that's certainly not relegated to aging rock stars. Take the recent Doris Duke Artists Awards, for example. The foundation just announced 2015's winners, 20 in total, spanning various performing arts genres. It's one of the most lucrative awards in existence—each winner gets a hefty $275,000—so there certainly isn't a dearth of qualified candidates.
So why, exactly, did the foundation select these 20 winners? Ben Cameron, program director for the arts at the foundation said, "This year's class is particularly notable for their collective, strong and consistent commitment to touring and working in multiple communities, enabling them to have enormous impact on artists and audiences in every corner of the country." (Emphasis added.)
In other words, the foundation is saying, "If you want the money, you gotta do the work. Hit the road. Engage with far-flung communities. Get outside your comfort zone."
In a way, Cameron's comment has a refreshing, retro ring to it. The Internet, we were told, would bring us closer together and eliminate distances between people. And while it's certainly nice and affordable to Skype with a fellow artists 3,000 miles away, it's nothing like the real thing—performing in a room in front of audiences.
Cameron's quote also reminds me why it's fun to read a foundation's press release with a critical eye, because more often than not, they understate the reasons why they awarded funding. For example, as I noted in this piece on the winners of two Doris Duke Performing Artist and Impact Award grants, the subtle, foundation-friendly buzz word was "collaboration."
And as for this round of awards, Cameron could have easily said, "Each of these winners uses emerging, cutting-edge technology to bring people together and break down barriers," but he didn't. He consciously mentioned the power of touring, and performing artists everywhere should take note.
Click here for a full list of the 20 winners. To qualify for a Duke Artists Award, recipients must have won grants, prizes or awards on a national level for at least three different projects over the past 10 years.
And for all performing artists about to pound the pavement, remember they key to life on the road. If someone offers you a free shower, take it.