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‘Poor live venues’ hurting UK biz’s mental health

Can music make you sick? Yes, says Help Musicians UK, as it finds nearly three quarters of UK musicians have experienced anxiety and panic attacks

By Jon Chapple on 02 Nov 2016

B&W guitar, Help Musicians UK, Music and Depression

A “frustration with live venues in the UK, particularly regarding sound quality” is contributing to poor mental health among those working in the British music industry, a survey by the University of Westminster and UK nonprofit MusicTank has found.

Can Music Make You Sick? Music and Depression, a survey of 2,211 “self-identifying professional musicians” commissioned by industry charity Help Musicians UK (HMUK), discovered that a staggering 71.1% of respondents believed they had experienced incidences of anxiety and panic attacks and 68.5% had dealt with depression.

A majority of respondents additionally felt underserved by available support, with 52.7% saying they found it difficult to get help and 54.8% saying there are gaps in the provision of available help.

The chief reasons cited for episodes of anxiety and depression among musicians were poor working conditions and the difficulty of sustaining a living. “The industry was said to contribute towards high levels of anxiety and depression given the precarious nature of the work, an inability to plan one’s time/future, the nature self-employment, antisocial hours, exhaustion and, crucially, low or often zero pay,” the report, penned by Westminster’s Sally Anne Gross and Dr George Musgrave, reads. It quotes one respondent as saying: “A plumber doesn’t work for ‘experience’; a doctor doesn’t perform surgery for ‘exposure’.”

“Sadly, the results of this survey don’t come as a surprise and paint a concerning picture of the conditions for those working in the music industry”

Others answers included a lack of recognition for one’s work (“be this from friends and family not seeing it as ‘real work’, or from others within the industry expecting musicians to tolerate unprofessional behaviour and being unappreciated for their labour), a lack of transparency in contracts and the aforementioned perceived poor quality of UK music venues.

The publication of the report follows a similar recent study from Norway, which found musicians in the country are three times more likely to be undergoing psychotherapy than the average Norwegian and 50% more likely to be using psychotropic medication.

While Gross and Dr Musgrave stress HMUK’s report contains “early, preliminary findings”, Richard Robinson, the charity’s chief executive, says their findings “paint a concerning picture of the conditions for those working in the music industry”.

“This survey is a vital first step in helping us to establish the scale of the problem, and it highlights the importance of the next phases of the survey, which will provide us with recommendations for launching the first music industry specific mental health service,” he comments.


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