While the survey focuses on issues of immediate and considerable concern, people from all the roles involved in music reported receiving joy and satisfaction from their work in a way that was clearly deeply and sincerely felt. The passion they expressed for their lives in music as the issues were discussed online and in person around the time of the survey was palpable.
The survey results suggest that no one role is particularly more causative of health and wellbeing issues in music people than another. To attribute increased susceptibility only to people that are popularly described as “tortured artists” was a common thread heard by the researchers throughout the project, but it is a view which is not necessarily backed up here by the numbers.
The sense that creativity only resides in the roles involved in songwriting, composing and performing seemed widespread. In truth, achieving a level of success in music requires participants to show heightened creative ability across the entire spectrum of disciplines involved in making live and recorded music happen, from artists, to engineers, crew, label personnel and beyond.
Research overseas is beginning to more precisely explain that increased vulnerability to mental health and wellbeing issues can at least in part be connected to the neurology and psychology of creative people. To quote from the work of Australian researchers Jeff and Julie Crabtree who have studied the area in depth: “The creative mind is complex. No matter how much we might like them to be just like everybody else, they can’t be, because the qualities that enable them to engage with the creative process also make their experience of life different.”
External factors are without doubt highly important. Virtually every warning sign of health and wellbeing issues: engagement, income, sleep, nutrition, exercise, alcohol and substance use, levels of self-esteem/worth, propensity to suicide and more show strikingly negative scores in this survey. While the economics of making ones’ way in music in a country as small as New Zealand was a common singular cause cited amongst participants, the nature of the activities involved in the various music industry disciplines almost certainly plays a part.
Financial instability, unhealthy work environments and schedules, combined with easy access to alcohol and substances, all underpinned by a culture that does not recognise that relevant support is available, or that it would be in affected individuals’ interests to reach out for it, are factors strongly articulated in the participants’ responses.
The survey results suggest isolation is contributing to health and wellbeing issues. There is a distinct sense that many feel “alone in the crowd” amongst their colleagues, in that while creative or commercial collaboration may be valued, there is an intense competitive element in music that discourages people from showing vulnerability or reaching out to their peers. The results strongly suggest that at the time of the survey, it was widely understood support from within the music community was not available and not to be expected.
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