Music distributor Record Union has joined the debate around mental health within the music industry, with a survey of nearly 1,500 independent musicians conducted in late March and early April this year. It’s the latest snapshot into a career that can take a toll on people’s wellbeing.
One headline: 73% of musicians surveyed said they had ever experienced “any negative emotions such as stress, anxiety and/or depression in relation to your music creation”. When people were asked for more details, 73% cited anxiety, 69% depression, 66% negative stress, 54% negative pressure, and 33% panic attacks. The report outlines some of the key triggers for these symptoms: 67% cited fear of failure as a factor, while 59% said financial instability, 58% the pressure to succeed, 51% loneliness, 44% being evaluated by others, and 40% the pressure to deliver.
There’s a particular point of concern around young musicians. 80% of 18-25 year-olds said they have experienced the negative emotions, yet this is exactly the age group that is least likely to seek treatment: only 33% of 18-25 year-olds who’d experienced these symptoms had sought treatment, compared to 47% of 26-35 year-olds and 46% of 36-45 year-olds. The youngest age group are also the least likely to talk to people around them about mental health and wellbeing: 58% said they do, compared to 72% of 26-35 year-olds and 74% of 36-45 year-olds.
One response to these kinds of statistics which we’ve heard is that ‘creative minds experience negative emotions’ should not be a shock. And that’s true: in a way, it’s more surprising that 21% of musicians surveyed said they had *not* experienced any of the negative emotions mentioned by the survey, given the nature of their craft and the demands of the modern industry. And of course, anxiety, stress, self-medication (also covered in Record Union’s survey) in relation to your job is not specific to music.
But as this and other reports on musicians’ wellbeing have made clear: the existence of negative emotions may not be a surprise, but the data on people’s challenges talking about this and seeking treatment is the concern to focus on. There are a number of organisations out there trying to help, and surveys like this may be a spur for the music industry to up its efforts even further to support them – particularly for those younger musicians who seem to be struggling more with these issues.