There’s something terrible happening in the music industry, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why no one is talking about it. It impacts the artists we set out to help, it changes the way we operate our businesses, and it’s hurting the people who work so hard to give this industry and the people around them their all. I’m talking about mental health.
The amount of people struggling with a mental illness in this industry (yours truly included), and fighting night and day for the things they love while battling a silent yet very intense war with depression, anxiety, bi-polar, insecurity, and any number of other illnesses is alarming. What’s worse, is that the industry—something that I have to believe evolved from love, community, and sharing, has turned into such a cold, cutthroat place. It has become a place where our worth is earned only by how little sleep we get, or how many Instagram followers we have. We base our self-worth on how many Facebook likes our blog has, or how many streams our music can garner. It’s an industry that tells us constantly that we aren’t good enough. That continually reminds us that there is always someone waiting to take our place if we aren’t up for the task.
This is not the industry I fell in love with. This is not how good people treat one another.
When we treat each other this way, we are giving in to the idea that it’s every person for themselves, and we are creating a breeding ground for mental illnesses. You can not encourage an industry full of people to not sleep, to live in fear that their job is about to be taken from them, to scramble constantly because the pay is never enough (there is no “middle class” in this industry) and then expect stellar results. We can not treat each other like a commodity, like a means to an end, and we most certainly can’t view this as acceptable, because every time we shrug our shoulders and say “that’s the industry for ya”, we are sinking deeper and deeper into the problem.
This is not everyone in the industry of course. There are many of us that fight hard for a more fair, stable, healthy industry, and to those of you out there that are reading this I say to you: it’s time to band together. It’s time to stop idealizing what we’d like the industry to be and start figuring out how to make it that way. Change is possible and I dare say that it is necessary for the industry to survive.
I want to live in a world and work in an industry where mental health is a priority, where people feel free to talk about their struggles without fear of alienation or criticism. Where they’re met with warm hearts and open arms, and the kind of reaction that I honestly can’t believe I have to define, because why would they be met with anything other than standard human compassion?
So I decided to do something about it. As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression for the last 15 years, and worked in this industry for 8 of them, I’ve always thought that it was normal to feel this way. That even if the industry didn’t cause my struggles, it certainly wasn’t making it worse. But then I woke up. I realized that although this industry had been founded and centered around creativity, love, and connection, it was now operating on impossible deadlines and demands, cutthroat behavior, and a complete lack of loyalty. I finally realized that this industry I loved so much had abandoned me in my time of need. That not only was it contributing to the problem it was actually making it worse and constantly agitating it. I never want anyone to feel that way about anything—especially the thing they love so passionately. So I decided to put together a series where prominent and emerging artists and industry professionals could share their stories of struggle, and perhaps most importantly, show that you are not alone in how you feel. That we are here for you. We are your support system, and you never have to feel alone.
When I first put out feelers for this series, I was overwhelmed by the response. People reached out to thank me, to volunteer their stories, to tell me how important they thought this was. I was and am flattered that so many have taken the time and the courage to share their stories with the industry. But I know that for every person that stepped forward there are hundreds more that sit alone, confused, crying, wondering what’s wrong with them. These stories are for you. To show you that we all struggle (no matter what the story our social media tells!) and that there will always be someone here for you. You are brilliant and you are needed to make a difference in this world and in this industry. We’re here for you.
If ever you feel alone, I welcome you to reach out to me at my personal email, anonymously if you prefer, and I’ll be there. firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ll be launching our first stories this week, and you can keep up with them and the courageous people behind them by following us here, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Thanks for being a part of this.