We Need More Music Industry Investment in Mental Health

Posted: by The Editor

photograph by Jay Leiby

In the fast-paced world of the music industry, creativity collides with commerce. The spotlight often overshadows the silent mental health struggles faced by both the artists and the executives. The industry has been prone to exploitation, from onerous contracts to owning master recordings or disputes over royalties and payments from streaming services. For 20+ years, I was on the front lines of seeing those consequences affect many, both within and creators in the industry. That continues to take a toll both monetarily and mentally for everyone involved. Thankfully, more advocacy is available today, yet more investment is still needed in mental health. Research suggests that people working in the music industry are more likely to experience mental health problems than the general population. 

Behind the scenes, professionals are involved in making the music that we love, from the roadies, musicians, producers, executives, and all those who deal with long hours, irregular schedules, and the unpredictable nature of the art and creativity of music. The toll on mental well-being should not just be afforded to those with a consistent job but to all involved in this industry. A study by the University of Westminster and MusicTank found that 68.5% of musicians experience depression, and 71.1% experience severe anxiety or panic attacks. From Musicares to Backline or The Entertainment Community Fund, there are resources. Still, many need a more extensive support system around them that speaks to them from their unique background, including those labels or management groups investing in the artists. LVRN and Royal Mountain Records are two labels in recent memory that have put mental health as not just an option but also a budget line item for their artists. Royal Mountain Records reported they spent $100,000 for 25 artists on their roster for mental health. Where will the music come from if there isn’t investment in the artist? 

Executives in the music industry navigate a delicate dance between artistic vision and the bottom line. The pressure to deliver commercially successful projects while nurturing creative authenticity can take a toll on their mental health. Research has shown that those working in the music industry are more prone to mental health problems and are up to three times more likely to suffer from clinical depression. They need a supportive culture that recognizes the intricacies of balancing the business and creative aspects of the industry. From every layoff to downsize, we need more investment and support systems for those to land back on their feet. When are more record and management companies advocating more mental health, not just for executives but also for artists? 

An industry-wide cultural shift begins with breaking the silence surrounding mental health. Encouraging open conversations about mental well-being at all levels of the music industry is essential. Beyond the ethical imperative, there is a compelling economic case for investing in mental health within the music industry. A mentally healthy workforce can increase creativity, productivity, and overall success. By viewing mental health initiatives as an investment rather than an expense, the industry can pave the way for sustained growth and success.

Education is a powerful tool for change. This section proposes the introduction of industry-wide mental health education programs. Providing resources and training to industry workers and executives aims to foster a greater understanding of mental health issues, equip individuals with coping mechanisms, and ultimately create a more resilient and empathetic industry culture.

In conclusion, fostering mental health in the music industry is not just a moral obligation but an investment in the industry’s longevity and success. From the unsung heroes backstage to the executives shaping the industry’s future, a collective commitment to well-being is the key to creating a harmonious and sustainable future for all involved in the music-making process. By acknowledging the challenges, implementing support systems, and fostering a culture of openness and understanding, the music industry can strike a chord of positive change that resonates with future generations.

Tom Mullen | @washedupemo

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