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Reflections on mental health in the commercial music industry.

As a professional musician and therapist I am always drawn to the media hype around the subject. When I started ‘Music & Mind’ there was little interest in the correlation between being a musician in the commercial music industry and the impact on mental health. I came into my own psychotherapy training through being a service user whilst holding the impact of the anomalous music industry. This experience of being both a musician and a commodity within the environment provides me with a depth of experience that is often overlooked. One thing that I should state here is that my use of the word ‘commodity’ is neither positive or negative, it just is. If we exist in the commercial music industry it is my view that we have to embrace our commoditised nature to enable financial reward.

When starting my own journey of recovery I struggled to find a therapist that understood musicians and the psychosocial aspects of the industry. I think when we have walked the path of touring, status, woodshedding, making it, merchandise, publicity campaigns, rehearsing, performing, TV & radio exposure, media criticism, phone hacking, social media, composition, instrumental ability, Z-list celebrity, marketing, branding, musical achievement, musical elation, musical stimulation, musical-dysmorphia™….etc…..It can be difficult to find therapeutic twinship. (Although I do hold that some therapists can empathise without the personal experience). Eventually I did and so began my own path.

One thing that I often see when I am involved with panels or conferences is the splitting between the industry and the musician. From my own perspective I feel that being an artist or creative can contribute enormously to internal struggles even without the context of the environment. For example, when initially studying for my music degree (then masters in music production) I can remember becoming obsessed with reaching certain tempo markings in my practice routine, developing a hyper sensitivity to self critique, and spending 18 hours on sonically shaping a snare drum compressor!! Within my continued ongoing work with creatives I also see other common threads of internal struggle without the superimposed environmental impact of a commercial industrial framing. From this perspective I feel it is important for all those in the ‘music industry mental health’ sector to take a more contextual and systemic perspective when working within the field. It isn’t one or the other it is both or more than both, if we don't do this we'll end up commoditising the very help we offer.


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