Finally, (hallelujah!) now it’s becoming common knowledge that musicians and everyone down the music supply chain are very susceptible to mental health issues and substance abuse after studies conducted by Help Musicians UK. I know first hand artists aren’t the only ones who are suffering. Others working in the music industry are also prone to depression, breakdowns, stress and anxiety, and I believe they shouldn’t be ignored either. I can off the top of my head name at least eight people I know who aren’t artists but working in the industry and have suffered with breakdowns and that’s without even trying. I’m not in a band but I’m sure that artists, promoters, managers, PR people, booking agents will also relate to a lot what I go on to talk about.
Mental health in music is a current subject and people raise money for mental health all the time, we see money raised at gigs, bands donating percentages of their album sales – which is fantastic but does this translate into everyday acceptance? In all honesty do people really give a shit outside of throwing a few quid into a charity bucket? That of course in itself is admirable, but what about day to day living, are you holding out your hand or supporting people who may need it? Do you join in and laugh when people make jokes? Do you defend people who may be getting an unfair jibes when they’re struggling? Do you listen to gossip?
I feel very strongly about stopping mental health stigma and I proudly speak candidly about it. I am well and truly fucked, as not only am an independent woman with her own blog/magazine in one of the most cut throat and quite frankly horrible industries in the world but I’m also struggling with my mental health. I have sat the past few weeks thinking where the fuck did it all go wrong, where did my positive attitude go? I’ve worked with some incredible artists, photographed some of the most famous rock stars of my time, put on many gigs, sent a band to a Croatian Festival to support Queens Of The Stoneage and got to know some incredible people, for god sake I even released my own album for charity. In many egotistical eyes (which there are many) thats not really much, as no matter what you do in this game it is never enough. You set one bar to reach and immediately there’s another, why? Because things move very fast in this highly competitive industry.
I’ve asked myself why am I know struggling to keep up? I know why, and it’s a reason many will relate to because the rate I’ve worked the past few years is unsustainable without consequences. What people tend to do in this industry is they take too much on and I now recognise that, I wanted to do everything and its physically impossible. When you are doing well everyone wants a piece of it and you, I found it hard to say no to people. I found myself falling deeper into a pit that finally saw me struggling to get out of. When I looked back I felt like I should and could have wrote, planned and arranged things better but I got sucked into so many projects, in the end I had ten plates spinning and wasn’t holding any of them very well. My confidence gradually bit by bit, slipped away and struggled to write anything I felt was good enough, infact I hardly wrote at all. All my enjoyment in doing what I loved, died.
For me, it’s the fact I’ve done this practically all on my own. Yes, I’ve had help in parts but the day to day, constant running of everything has been on my shoulders. No matter what help you get in, no-one feels as strongly as you do because it’s not their ‘baby’. The past few years trying to nurture that ‘baby’ I’ve realised that I’ve neglected myself more than I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve neglected my mental and physical health, my relationship, my friends, my family and most importantly my kids, all in pursuit of my dreams to run my own business on the unsigned music scene. Coming into this I was very optimistic, bright eyed and probably a bit naive, I spent money I hadn’t got, I travelled up and down the country attending gigs, festivals, TV shows and video shoots – all to get my name known. Sounds glamorous doesn’t it and don’t get me wrong, at first it can be a lot of fun but it’s exhausting not to mention expensive. My partner tells me now and laughs how that when I’d get up at 6am day in day out and turn my laptop on in bed or sit up till 1am tap, tap, tapping anyway and how he had no idea how he didn’t wrap it round my head – he said it’s like going out with a zombie when I’m in work mode and that my mind was always elsewhere. My mum tells me the same. She was right, they were both right and I can see it now but I was oblivious to this although, I think I used it as a distraction, anyone with an addictive personality will understand exactly what I mean. Admittedly, it’s hard for some to understand this, only people reading this who work in the industry will get what I’m talking about. Bands and people think your insane when you say you’re tired out, your friends can’t understand why your always busy ‘You only write a few articles and put a few gigs on what do you mean you can’t come out’ but believe you me when I say this is a full time, 7 days, 24 hours a week job. One aspect is the social media site which is absolutely constant, building your followers, your audience, SHARE! SHARE! SHARE! There is always something that needs doing and no matter what app people tell you get there is no better engagement than a real person. In most lines of work there is a time of day when you switch off, not in this game, everyone thinks you are constantly available so get ready for emails, Facebook messages, Whats-app and Twitter constantly. Initially, you thrive off this but it catches up with you. The obvious thought here is hire some staff! And pay them with? Directing people to your site to get your hits up to get advertising is a full-time job on its own. People will contribute and do some great write ups but finding regular, committed people who will not only work for free but but who you can trust, is very, very difficult. No content, no hits – no hits, no money.
On the outside most people are putting out this image that they are here, there and everywhere, putting fantastic gigs on and that everything is amazing! I’m backstage with blah! I’m interviewing blah! Look at me, look at my followers, look at my company, we are doing great things! I’m guilty of this, but it’s worn very thin. You are probably are doing great things like I was, but it’s an addictive roller-coaster that comes at a price. One-minute things are happening and your booking and interviewing great bands, doing great little shows, interviewing big stars, rubbing shoulders with your idols and the next week your worrying about money, drinking every night to relax, eating complete crap because you’ve no time to cook or exercise, answering emails at 1am and your struggling for content, struggling for money, your family hates you, you can’t relax no matter how hard you try and your anxiety is sky rocketing constantly. Things always go from mental to quiet in the blink of an eye and you are up and down like a yo-yo constantly chasing that next buzz. Best thing all is your doing all this and nine times out of ten you aren’t even getting paid and there is only so long that you can say ‘I’m doing this to build my reputation and business’.
Another thing in the signed and unsigned music industry, you can forget about what you know—you’re far better off considering who you know. Nepotism and cronyism run riot, if you’re not born into the industry or run in the right circles, your journey can be much harder. If you are attractive you are at risk of been seen just for your looks and not your talent. Some people will help you based on your merits but they are very few and far between. Those who bring you up, can also drop you right back down and can potentially ruin you if they are feeling that way out. Despite all that, there are some rare diamonds who will have your back, that’s if your heart is in this for the right reasons. You just have to find these diamonds, or if you are very lucky they will find you. So many people proclaim to support new music when in reality it’s all about them and boosting their own profiles. Don’t even get me started on the backstabbing, jealousy and gossip. Let me tell you now, very few people actually genuinely care about the scene and I can now thankfully spot them a mile off.
Despite all the negativity, I came into this game for a reason. I love music, I love live music. My main reason though was the belief that guitar music could and will break back through into the mainstream music scene. I truly from the depths of my soul believe that the calibre of acts on the underground scene is great enough to do it. The industry can continue to be ruthless, but the negative aspects won’t weigh me down any longer. I am one of those girls who take the rocks that people throw and build a castle. I am taking steps to come back refreshed and stronger than before. Dedicating this time off to self-improvement and planning better, I will be much better equipped to deal with the endless stream of petty, jealous, game playing bullies, setbacks and negativity in a more productive and positive way. I’ll always be honest and I’m no Kevin Cummings, my punctuation and spelling is sometimes off but I am full of fire, passion and people seem to respond well to what I do and what I’m saying. That is what will keep me going.
We all are at risk of breaking down especially in creative industries – so remember that before you judge anyone or give anyone advice that makes them feel ashamed and like they need to hide away. Hiding away is probably the worst thing I could have do or done. The more open I have been about all this, the more inboxes I am receiving from men and women (mostly men actually) who themselves have worked or are working in the industry (at all levels) and have had to take a hiatus or have full on quit due to breakdowns and burnouts. Please don’t ignore the warning signs like I did for so, so long. Go see a doctor, speak to someone and get help. Below are some helplines that I must put with these sorts of articles. Honestly, I’ve never had the guts to ring them or to be honest wanted to tell a stranger all my problems over the phone but even if you are like me in that respect, we all have someone who will listen. Writing is also very therapeutic, if you work in the industry I’d be more than happy to publish your story on working in it and mental health, just email it over to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading.
Those needing help and emotional support can call Help Musicians UK on 0808 802 8008 free of charge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.