A just-released study from Swedish digital music distributor Record Union suggests that about three-quarters of independent musicians suffer from symptoms of mental illness, such as anxiety or depression. Further investigation indicates that these issues are directly related to their work as independent artists. These mental health issues can, and often do, lead to self-medication with alcohol or other drugs, and eventual substance use disorder.
The Plight of The Independent Musician
Anyone who has ever tried to embark on a career in music understands the enormous gamble and sacrifice associated with the decision. They understand the emotional toll that doing all of their own booking; working thankless or backbreaking jobs to afford studio time; forsaking the stability in which they see all of their peers eventually enshrined; and living a life not all that dissimilar to that of an unowned dog can take.
Rates of mental illness were even higher (80 percent) among musicians ages 18-25. Record Union also reports that over a third of all independent musicians surveyed suffer from panic attacks due to financial instability and other adverse lifestyle factors. Nearly 60 percent claimed to think about their mental health every day, and 41 percent of those respondents think about it multiple times a day.
Reversing the Course of Mental Illness in Musicians
Along with their research, Record Union offered the assertion that it’s time to place a higher cultural priority on the mental health of independent musicians and artists, a tall order given the market-driven nature of the digital music landscape. However, the organization’s The 73 Percent project is looking to increase funds, awareness and resources to help this population manage and prevent toxic and dysfunctional mental health issues. The survey showed that 81 percent of the musicians who responded don’t believe that the music industry is creating a “sustainable music climate with healthy artists.” Record Union has donated $30,000 to projects developed to address these issues.
It’s Not the Music…It’s Everything Else
There’s a reason why independent musicians accept the struggle, and everything that goes along with it, as they endeavor to make their musical mark. At the end of the day, when all of the checks are cashed (or bounced), all of the clubs are empty, all of the beer is spilled and everyone is through either praising an independent musician for their determination and talent, or talking about them behind their back, saying they have to get their lives together, it’s them, their instruments and the unflinching belief that they have something to say. There is literally nothing else on earth like the “high” one gets from playing music, whether it’s for a room of 20 or 20,000.
Recovery Unplugged is acutely aware of the transformative power of music for both the musician and the audience, and we’re committed to helping our clients nurture, refine and embrace their musicality. Keep playing