Despite the ever-growing number of articles and testimonies published on the ongoing touring crisis, dwelling on it does not get easier over time. As the sector continues to plunge into an increasingly deeper slump, it becomes harder to draw a concluding thought on it. When I first started tackling this topic for a four-part series I published on MUSIC X last month, I was hoping to not only shed a light on what was going on but also help figure out what could be done. However, although it is not hard to compile a swarm of critiques sharply aimed at the state of the live music sector, and what touring is doing to musicians emotionally and financially (not to mention its environmental impact), I found myself staring at a blank screen when the time came to finish on a positive note. As touring continues to drain musicians’ wallets and push them to the brink, both mentally and physically - as well as devastating the environment - a saddening suggestion ushers in; what if it’s time to stop?
\ \ It may seem extreme, but it’s a thought worth contemplating. Perhaps the most challenging is to picture what music would even look like. To ask us to imagine it without touring would be akin to demanding us to dream up cinema minus movie theaters. Be it for promotional, financial, or reasons of a higher spiritual order, musicians have been on the road for centuries. The way we listen to music privately may have changed, but, as a collective, we have gathered to watch musicians play for so long it’s near-impossible to visualise the crater the end of touring would leave on the industry. We got a taste of it during the lockdown, which many of us are forgetting about already. The growing drawbacks of touring have since left many wondering whether it was worth returning at all.
\ \ Next, we would need to fill the void. If we were to erase touring from the current music industry’s lexicon, what would we replace it with? After all, there is a reason why, despite everything, musicians are still hitting the road. For the time being, that may come down to money. In the future, musicians will likely continue to split themselves between different sources of revenue, with live performances representing a significant slice of the money-making pie. But, once those are gone, where will they go? And where do we, the concert-thirsted public, follow them?
I too crave a solution. When I planned out my MUSIC X series, I was expecting to find a way out of this maze, but I came out more lost than before. For my last piece, I toyed with the prospect of a virtual future for live music - one in which musicians no longer need to put themselves (or the environment) through the wringer. Many have written about it with more conviction than I have. My hope is fueled by other voices echoing the need to find a way for musicians to not have to continue trudging along a broken path; it is why initiatives such as this one turn me from defeated to curious.
So returns that persistent idea; what if we quit? We’d need to figure out what comes after, and how the industry can swerve the mistakes of the past, present, and future in this next stage of being. Lack of accessibility, for instance, is a concern to be addressed. In this virtual future, we might hold the key to something else - maybe not the future of touring, but a new reality that may replace it altogether.
About The Author
Tiny Portuguese person living in the land of giants (the Netherlands). Lucky enough to sometimes be given the chance to do what she likes most; intensely overthink pop culture.