The 73 Percent Report: Record Union’s Study of Independent Musicians & Mental Health

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It’s often said that artists are tortured souls; and although the narrative can be damaging, and add to a serious stigma – being a creative, and how it affects one’s mental health negatively: is indeed a reality. A recent report by music distributor Record Union titled The 73 Percent Report, is the personification of the struggle of independent musicians. According to an online survey, held between the 21st of March and the 2nd of April (2019); we see results that definitely call for a wake-up call – especially with results showing that over 80% of younger musicians struggle with mental health issues.

The conversation surrounding mental health is becoming more prevalent in the “mainstream” – yet the stigma still stands, and can make it difficult for many to receive the help they need; as asking for it, is often the most difficult part. With this being said, what are the ties between poor mental health and being an independent musician? What exactly is causing young musicians so much stress?

According to Record Union’s study, approximately 73% of independent musicians experience mental health issues – approximately 7 out of 10 people. This statistic is certainly worrying. Delving deeper, we see an increase of mental health issues amongst younger artists specifically. The report states:

As many as four out of five (80%) among the respondents in the age of 18-25 said that they have experienced negative emotions such as stress, anxiety and/or depression in relation to their music creation.

When examining different symptoms, anxiety plays a large role in music creation as well –

Anxiety and depression top the list of symptoms, but as many as one out of three (33%) respondents that said that they have experienced negative emotions in relation to their music creation, said that they have experienced panic attacks.

Why, one might ask, is anxiety and depression so prevalent in music creation? Surely music is a beautiful form of self-expression, making one feel good about themselves; allowing independent musicians to create and unbox their experiences in a tangible narrative. The unfortunate reality lies in the society we live in, and how the pressure of modern day capitalism combines with individual fears: a conglomeration of worries, a conglomeration of low self-esteem fueled by financial stress, and the ever prevalent artist’s dilemma: “What if I’m not good enough?” This is a common feeling between artists, yet the severity of these thoughts and experiences cannot be overlooked.

Record Union’s report is a perfect representation of what drives these mental health issues; with many of us creatives able to relate so well, it’s somewhat terrifying.

The study found that the most common denominators when it comes to declining mental health and independent music creation is, perhaps not surprisingly:

  • Fear of Failure, topping the chart at 67%
  • And Financial Instability, clocking 59%

Another factor that follows close behind is the Pressure To Succeed, at 58%. There are many factors that come into play when it comes to mental health and how it affects our lives, and this is a clear example of how, and why, independent musicians grapple with the difficulties of mental health. In a society that places more value on wealth as opposed to the arts; and the pressure to earn that wealth from the arts (yet that is a clear juxtaposition) – it’s no wonder we are so stressed constantly.

A toxic pattern has emerged when it comes to the arts; the constant pressure that artists face to monetize their hobbies. It’s as though we are no longer able to create just for the sake of it, out of our own passion – to share with others, out of love of creation. We have to be not only be “good enough” – we have to be able to pay our bills. And in order to pay the bills, we have to be “the best”. It’s a self-perpetuating, anxiety inducing cycle.

These societal attitudes make it perfectly clear as to why an estimated 73% of independent musicians tackle difficult, debilitating mental health issues. It makes even more sense as to why younger artists are increasingly feeling that pressure, which is suffocating.

In order for us to accurately tackle the issues facing creatives comes with a reformation of our perceptions; the lifestyles associated with artistic success need to grow healthier – the value of art needs to be recognised for the incredible practice it is: for creatives to pay their bills, to live a stable life, to be able to create out of joy. The societal issue of taking artists, musicians and other creatives for granted runs rampant, and often leaves independents feeling despondent, anxious.

We need to continue the conversation surrounding mental health; we need to break the stigma and make sure all those in need of help are able to receive it. When it comes to the difficulties creatives face; The 73% Report makes it obvious that this system is not working for us. In fact, it is causing us to completely break apart.

Read the full 73% Report here.

If you, or anyone you know is struggling with mental health issues; make sure to reach out to those around you, and talk about it. Help is always available, with open arms; even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.

Words by Jenna Dreisenstock