My Music, My Mental Health
According to a study by digital distrubition company, Record Union, nearly three-quarters of independent musicians have experienced “stress, anxiety and/or depression” in relation to their work, a new study has found.
The results, which were published on April 30, are based on a web survey of nearly 1,500 independent musicians between March 21 and April 2. The survey found 73% of the population had faced negative mental health issues, with anxiety and depression topping the list of symptoms. Among those aged 18-25, the numbers are even worse, with 80% of respondents in that age range having experienced negative mental health effects stemming from their music careers.
Personally, I’ve dealt with this myself. The further I got in my career, the bigger the mental health issues seem to get. The outside factor of aging in hip hop, the pressure of “making it” and also wanting to start a life independent of my music sent me into a whirlwind of depression.
The moment that hit me the most was the week after releasing “Hurts” in 2017. The response from publications that I built relationships with was bad. Here I am believing I created a dope song and every site that gave me the platform I have said “this isn’t it.”
Did I lose the ability to know if I made a good song? Why don’t they like it? Was spending all this money for this single worthless? I have a life I want to live. I want to one day be able to have a family and a house, so should I quit? Will I ever be able to quit if this is my love and passion? Why am I doing this?
I remember walking into the darkness of the bedroom and breaking down. As I cried, it felt like a chestbuster from Alien was going to come out of my chest. I cried myself to sleep believing I was a failure. The next day, I decided to take off work because I just needed time to myself to reflect. Alone time to me was how I coped and when I was asked later that day if I was okay, I responded, yes, but deep down, I really wasn’t. I knew there was something wrong but I wasn’t sure what it was.
The financial burden and the rejection were a lot. I always hear that if you want to be a part of the entertainment industry, you must be a little bit of delusional to chase it. To believe you’re going to be that one in a million sounds delusional to those on the outside and even worse when you’re the only one that believes it. When you get that validation, you feel like you’re on top of the world. When that validation is no longer there, you either fight hard/be reckless to get it back, you bury yourself in depression or you give up. It doesn’t help that you spend thousands of dollars between studio time, photoshoot, artwork, distribution, promotion and a video but no one wants to hear it. The feeling of failure hits harder when you’re possibly going in debt for this dream. How do I eat? How do I take care of those around me? How can I ask for help when all I had to do was not chase this crazy dream? Drowning in doubt is a quick way to kill everything positive about yourself.
The hardest thing about help is admitting that you need help. Until near the end of last year, I had stopped doing music. It wasn’t because I was done but because I wanted to be in a better head space. Doing the work has been a big help. Taking care of myself allowed me to write when the time was right. Knowing something is wrong is scary, accepting something is wrong makes you cloudy but doing the work although hard is a beautiful process.
As an independent artist, the cost of any type of therapy can be seen as too expensive or you’re taking away from money that could be used for music. Please check to see if your local community/county board has therapist. This helps for anyone that doesn’t have insurance or is gun shy due to cost.
In concert with the study (titled “The 73 Percent Report”), Record Union has committed to donating $30,000 to projects designed to prevent or treat mental illness in musicians. Interested parties can submit their projects to the73percent.com between May 7 and June 2. The submitted projects will be published June 3 on the website, where artists and other interested parties can vote for their favorites using Facebook or Google validation any time before June 16. The top 10 vote-getters will then meet before a panel of experts, who will decide which three projects split the $30,000.
“The music industry has traditionally been defining success on commercial terms," added Johan Svanberg, CEO of Record Union. "To be seen as successful you need to reach high sales and tour goals. It’s always money first. To create a more sustainable music climate with healthier artists, we believe that this needs to change and that artists need to start thinking about their mental health as part of the success.”
To those going through it: If you feel you’re in the same place, I hope you have the support system to push you towards help. If not, don’t be afraid to do it yourself and you can always reach out to me. Getting professional help got me back into a good space. It not only helped with me in my music life but also my personal life.
To those that know musicians: Please check on them even if they are doing well because you just never know. If you support them as an artist, please buy directly from them than stream it. This helps the financial burden that could be going through. The most important thing is to just be there from them. A support system can work wonders and, in the end,, support from friends, family, and community is all we have.