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Has Music Gone Mental? Here’s Why Prioritizing Mental Health Will Save Your Music Career

As seen in
Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 21 – Fall 2022

No more one-hit wonders; here’s how you can create longevity and thrive in your music career.

When the news broke that Naomi Judd passed away suddenly due to suicide in May, it was a song that had become a bit of a broken record. She was a prominent advocate for mental health, but the news reminded everyone that our favorite musicians are humans, too. For the past few years, we have grown accustomed to hearing about artists who have died prematurely that year, largely due to mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. We may post a heartfelt message, attend the tribute concert, or stream all of their music in their honor… and the beat goes on. 

But when will the industry respond to properly protect the mental health of the artists who pad their wallets? We are witnessing a growing mental health crisis among musicians. A 2019 study published by the Music Industry Research Association (MIRA), the Princeton University Study Research Center, and MusiCares shared that half of the musicians who responded frequently felt “down, depressed, or hopeless.” In this digital age, many musicians like bedroom-pop/hi-fi musician Chelsea Cutler are burnt out on the non-stop need to share every aspect of their lives as content for social media and the inability to disconnect from their careers. Just four months ago, British hip-hop sensation Little Simz canceled her U.S. tour due to a lack of adequate resources to sustain the mental and financial stress she would face on the road. 

It’s no secret that the music industry is not the healthiest environment for your mind to prosper. But there is a way for you to stay creative and maintain your sanity in the process. 

Here are five ways prioritizing your mental health will help you have a longer, more sustainable career. 

  • Create a healthy work/life balance 

As an industry that exists mainly outside the traditional 9-to-5 work setting, you will be faced with obligations to perform evenings, late nights, weekends, and sometimes holidays. Though this works with your naturally free spirit, it can quickly lead to burnout if you don’t set healthy boundaries that allow you to take a break and maintain your relationships with your loved ones. You must establish an honest and communicative relationship with your manager, your band, and yourself that allows you to nurture your life outside your career. 

  • Set realistic career aspirations 

Fame can be a double-edged sword. We have seen how becoming a worldwide success has significantly impacted the health of stars such as Curt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, and Britney Spears. Although the spotlight can be very alluring, the sacrifice and stress that comes with being at the top aren’t conducive to your mental health. Define your version of success and consider the type of lifestyle that you truly want so you can work towards it while pursuing your music career. 

  • Establish a supportive network 

Whether you’re in the studio for days on end or on a multi-city tour for weeks, life as a working musician can quickly become a lonely place. But we need connection and intimacy to thrive. Remember to take a break from the hustle and replenish your spirit by spending time with trusted people you can talk to. Backline, a nonprofit that offers mental health services specifically for the music industry, has weekly support groups and group therapy that allows you to join a community of like-minded individuals who want to improve their lives. 

  • Check-in on your overall health

Since the start of the pandemic, it has become evident that there are inequities that exist for low-income and marginalized cultural groups in accessing adequate healthcare services. For many musicians, health care may not be the highest priority, but regular emotional and spiritual check-ins combined with routine check-ups can spot early detection and set you up for longevity. Music Health Alliance removes barriers and provides healthcare access to heal music professionals, while MusiCares provides preventive medical, dental, and healthcare services.

  • Pay attention to your finances 

Gone are the days when the lack of transparency with music contracts and deals ruled supreme, and musicians were kept in the dark about where their money went. Learn the business of music and understand standard industry practices to maintain control over your commitments and finances. You’re not a one-trick pony who has to rely solely on performances and music sales for your cash flow. Surround yourself with artists at different levels in their careers to get an idea of how they’re staying creative with their income. She Is The Music is an industrywide movement that empowers female creators through educational workshops, networking sessions, and mentorship. On the flip side, you can access financial assistance through the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund and MusiCares. 

We may be living in uncharted territory in the music industry, but we can create a better path forward by focusing on healing our minds and adopting healthier routines. Times may be tough, but no matter what, keep your head up. 

Citations: 

Naomi Judd suicide & depression
https://www.everydayhealth.com/depression/what-a-psychiatrist-says-naomi-judds-death-can-teach-us-about-depression-and-suicide-risk/

Report: Musicians More Likely To Struggle With Mental Health & Substance Abuse
https://www.musicares.org/news/report-musicians-more-likely-struggle-mental-health-substance-abuse

There’s A Mental-Health Crisis Among Musicians. How Can We Solve It?
https://www.mtv.com/news/j9f2ac/musicians-mental-health-industry-benee-chelsea-cutler-vagabon

British Star Little Simz Cancels U.S. Tour, Saying Self-Financed Shows Would Create ‘Huge Deficit’
https://variety.com/2022/music/news/british-star-little-simz-cancels-u-s-tour-saying-self-financed-shows-would-create-huge-deficit-1235237279/

Backline
https://backline.care/support-groups-benefits/

Mental Health Alliance
htps://www.musichealthalliance.com/

MusiCares
https://www.musicares.org/get-help/relief-resources

She Is The Music
https://sheisthemusic.org/

Sweet Relief Musicians Fund
https://www.sweetrelief.org/

~By Alicia Needham

Alicia Needham is a professional arts & entertainment copywriter, podcast host, and entrepreneur. Music truly is her life as she is the Founder of Music’s Metaphor – a global mental health-focused entertainment platform and host of The Mindful Rockstar Podcast. Through the years, she has worked with: Sony Music Group recording artists, record labels, music business conferences, and many independent artists and creatives. In her free time, you can find Alicia cooking plant-based meals and watching horror movies. musicmetaphor.com

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