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Mental Health in the Music Industry

Anya Yang, Staff Writer

Stage fright, perfectionism, and unrealistic expectations are just a few things that musicians have to deal with. The Music Industry Research Association (MIRA), has partnered with the Princeton University Survey Research Center to release a study on musicians to understand the challenges they face in the music industry. The findings of this study show that “musicians disproportionately struggle with mental health and substance abuse”. Mental health is complex, but musicians face unique struggles that sadly make the industry even more difficult to work in.

Unpredictable pay, low wages and lack of financial stability can affect mental health negatively. In order to have some sort of steady income, many musicians are forced to take multiple jobs and leave home. Moving around and being forced to “create on demand” can all take a toll on mental health. “Being a musician has the impact of any self-employed job, you never switch off, everything is connected to your success; your relationships, your friendships, and your social life,” Joe Tilson, an English singer-songwriter explained in an interview with Open Democracy(OD).

However, musicians aren’t all suffering from mental health issues because of these reasons. The arts and music industry is a difficult place to succeed in, and this has nothing to do with the musicians themselves. In early 2018, the Musicians’ Union found that 44% of British orchestral musicians said their income was not enough to sustain their livelihood due to financial cuts, but unappreciation of the arts isn’t just an issue in the UK. University courses in creative subjects are being influenced by the focus on graduates’ salaries as a measure of success. OD stated that “despite the huge contribution of the music industry to the economy—with creative industries estimated to generate £85 billion net annually to Britain’s GDP according to 2016 figures—governments still fail to recognize its importance, including in education.”

While these issues may not directly lead to mental health problems, they send out the message that hard work isn’t valued. Combined with the diverse pressures musicians already face, this can destroy self-esteem and have the potential to cause a variety of mental health issues later on. In a study done in 2016, 71% of musicians admitted to having frequent anxiety attacks. Another 69% reported they suffered from depression.

Luckily, there are several organizations that provide mental support for musicians. Help Musicians, a British company, launched Music Minds Matter, a 24/7 nationwide mental health service for anyone working in the music industry and even a support hotline. The charity is increasing its support for various projects, including the Musician’s Hearing Health Scheme and the Creative Programme, which supports upcoming artists.

Mental health varies from person to person. Unfortunately, musicians face pressures and situations most people don’t have to experience, which can lead to many unseen issues. Appreciating the arts and supporting struggling musicians isn’t all that it takes to improve things. With the help of different mental health organizations, we can only hope that things change for the better in the music/arts industry.

Photo courtesy of HIGHSCHOOL.LATIMES.COM

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Mental Health in the Music Industry