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Positivity and burn-out

Following recent reports of a growing mental health crisis in the global music industry, Hilde Spille writes on the importance of making time to do nothing

02 Dec 2016

Hilde Spille

Last month I did a guest lecture at Tampere University of Applied Sciences for students of music management. I started with research into positive psychology and how it can help musicians and people in the music business. In the music business we all follow our passion: We like what we do, we do what we like. We have a very positive attitude towards our work.

Many people dream of being a musician or working in the music business. As an agent, I feel privileged to do the work I do and the great musicians I work with. When working as musician or when working in the music business, you realise that you are privileged. You feel very positive about your work. With all the positivity present, it’s often hard to admit that there are moments when you don’t like your work, or some aspects that go with your work. You think that it’s temporary, and you continue, even if you feel less positive.

You once loved the work you do, and you don’t understand what’s bothering you now. All the people around you love what they do. They wouldn’t understand, so you can’t talk about the discomfort you feel. You feel fatigue but you go on, even if it costs you lots of energy.

After having sleep problems for weeks or months, you still think that it’s temporary, that good night’s sleep will cure everything. Only when physical pain is added, you start to realise that it’s time to visit your GP. Many GPs, however, look only at the physical problems: For GPs it’s difficult to realise that passion for your work can cause a burn-out, and that even famous musicians can have a burn-out.

This is something I have experienced myself and seen happening around me again and again.

During the lecture we ended talking a lot about burning out and being overworked. Smiling doesn’t offer a way out of it; nor does just keeping going or waiting for a good night’s sleep. When you burn out, you don’t have the energy for positivity or passion.

It’s important to find the right treatment. It always starts with taking some rest. In the second step you add some physical exercise. You have to learn to know and to trust yourself again. At the third step you cautiously start working again. Each step needs to be accompanied by a GP, coach or psychologist. As a psychologist and coach who’s familiar with musicians and the music business, I can help you with that.

Preventing a burn-out is even better. A friend in the music business told me that his laziness prevented him becoming overworked. He always made time for doing nothing. For musicians, and everyone working with musicians, it’s important to realise that you need time off, time to relax, time to do nothing, time to get bored. Your mind needs to unwind.

A regular walk in the countryside does exactly that. Yoga and meditation help, too. Take that time off as seriously as any other appointment in your calendar. You need it even more in situations when you think you are too busy.

I go to the office by bicycle and take a quiet road, even if it’s a detour. Cycling twice a day, for 20 minutes through a quiet area of the city with many trees, helps me to unwind. What’s you favourite way to unwind your mind?


Hilde Spille is a senior agent at Paperclip Agency in the Netherlands and the founder of Compass for Creatives, which offers mental coaching and ‘burn-out treatment’ for musicians.