The Music Industry’s Mental Health Crisis Continues to Plague Artists 
Tue, April 20, 2021

The Music Industry’s Mental Health Crisis Continues to Plague Artists 

Musicians feel pressure differently than the rest of us. They live in a fast-paced, incredibly competitive world where their merits are always matched up with someone else's / Photo by: NejroN via 123RF

 

Musicians feel pressure differently than the rest of us. They live in a fast-paced, incredibly competitive world where their merits are always matched up with someone else's. The race never ends and a successful career will only last as long as audiences still want to see what they have to offer. 

The pressure to be constantly creative and still be at the top of their game gradually then beats down on the artist. Not to mention the emergence of social media has made artists’ lives that much more difficult, and often drives them into some pretty dark places. Because of this, the mental health status of many in the industry is dire and doesn’t seem to be looking up any time soon. 

The Numbers

Though it’s not much of a secret that musicians are more likely to be affected by mental health problems like depression than the general adult population, the numbers are still staggeringly bleak. According to a report by popular culture magazine The Rolling Stones, a study by the Music Industry Research Association found that 50% of musicians battle symptoms of depression compared to the 25% of the general population who do. 

Artists and musicians are also four times more likely to report having suicidal thoughts than the general population, making mental health problems in the industry almost like a silent killer for many artists. So many have already lost their lives to these ailments and the fact that these numbers haven’t changed, and have actually gone higher, indicate that there is much to be done if the industry wishes to combat this crisis. 

New research in 2019 by Swedish digital-distribution platform Record Union even revealed that now, 73% of independent musicians experience the same kinds of stress, anxiety, and depression. 

In a corresponding report by the website Consequence of Sound, a Chicago-based online magazine, these numbers were taken after interviewing 1,500 musician participants in early 2019, with the 18-25 age demographic of musicians saying 80% of them feel the effects of mental health issues in their life each day. 

From the looks of it, it’s not entirely either the artists’ or the audiences’ fault, its just the way the music industry has changed in the past few years. The study found that artists are feeling pressure to tour constantly now than ever before. 

Streaming and album sales have fallen drastically and so many artists have now resorted to “working twice as hard to stay in the same spot they used to.” This kind of high-pressure environment may be easily manageable for new artists, but over time, this same kind of bombardment is bound to chip away at an artist. 

A professor at the University of Southern California and Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman said as much, illuminating the grim reality that people in the industry are now being viewed as mere commodities, versus people with actual jobs and families that they may be providing for.

To put things into perspective, there are about 10 to 100 crew members behind the scenes working closely with either a lone artist or a band, and not many people are aware that their mental health, too, takes a beating. Toronto-based clinical psychologist Dr. Chayim Newman says that these crew then end up getting burn out as much as the artist, sometimes even more so. 

Treatment and Professional Help 

On the matter of professional help and treatment, 40% of those surveyed said they did seek professional treatment, but a worrying 50% said they would rather turn to self-medication, such as alcohol and drug use, both substances that could only lead them to substance abuse and is not a recommended method. 

It doesn’t help that alcohol and drugs are easily accessible in the industry either. Accompanied by feelings of loneliness, artists are more susceptible to drowning out their misery with these substances, and that is where the problem lies. 

Finally, only 19% said they were convinced the music industry was changing for the better for people with mental health problems. 

While professional help can truly improve the mental health condition of artists, a significant amount of effort will still be needed from the artists. Establishing a routine and setting a time to eat, sleep, and work will help any person regardless of health condition. According to a report by news and analysis website The Industry Observer, small, repetitive tasks will greatly improve an artists’ mental and overall health. 

The problem with that is, touring doesn’t really give anyone the luxury to choose and stick to their routines. So, as artists continue to lack sleep, even their eating habits start to get affected. 

Dr. Newman told The Rolling Stones, “Creatives in the industry today suffer more because their routines are so destabilized. The intense, long hours on the road or in the studio creates a challenge in maintaining health routines and healthy relationship routines.” 

While professional help can truly improve the mental health condition of artists, a significant amount of effort will still be needed from the artists / Photo by: Alexander Raths via 123RF

 

Grassroots Solutions

Over time, though, many artists realize that their mental health problems affect so many artists like them. Self-isolation is now being eased up as more and more artists dedicate their platforms to shedding light on mental health issues. 

It is through these small efforts that a group called Backline, an organization connecting various people in the music industry who feel the effects of mental health problems weighing down on them, was formed. 

Backline accommodates everyone from roadies, sound engineers, agents, and family members and connects them to one another, to try and ward off that feeling of loneliness that plague so many people. 

Hilary Gleason, CEO of consulting firm Level, said that the initiative seems to be working in their favor, seeing as how when the initiative began in early October, they already accepted 70 submissions right away. This is one other indication that there really is a need to address mental health problems in the industry more than ever. 

“We’ve had agents and managers say: ‘I’m experiencing so much anxiety because of my never-ending email box and booking for [all these] bands, and I think it should all be great, but I feel this crushing weight,’” Gleason shares.