Adam bringing the previous research up to date within an expanded and contemporary setting this blog looks at the subset of popular musicians who are based in the digital world.
When the classic research mentioned in the previous blogs was being compiled, most musicians weren’t as technologically advanced as today’s pluralistic artists. Within the contemporary diverse world of electronic musicians a recent piece of research draws upon a far wider, two-continuum model of mental health, consisting of both wellbeing and distress within a positive psychology, psychosocial framework (the good things about our psychology and how the social environment combines with our mental health) you can read that research here.
Developing the researchers previous work on resilience and mental health issues in classical musicians his study provides insight into the popular music sub-genre of 163 semi and professional electronic musicians. The investigation used the usual questionnaires to measure depression and anxiety, wellbeing, sleep disturbance, MPA (music performance anxiety), drug and alcohol abuse, occupational stress, resilience, alongside social support.
The study illustrated that up to 30% of the musicians experienced depression and anxiety, with sleep disturbance (29%) being cited as a main contributory factor to these mental health difficulties. This sleep deprivation correlates with other studies exploring the struggles of other performing artists.
The research highlighted the demanding work environment experienced by 57% of the musicians, who worked both evenings and nights, with 67% working weekends and 61% working unpredictable hours, while 65% reported sleep disturbances. As a musician (myself) and having worked with thousands of them (both practically and psychologically) I can concur that the working hours certainly are all over the place at the best of times. Additionally, the concept of a work-life balance is almost impossible at times, well I found it so! To a certain extent I do view this as the choice we make when we commit to being professionals. Of course, it shouldn’t be like this, and it needs to be very carefully managed both by ourselves and hopefully the industrial framework.
In regard to the electronic musician study, the research also highlighted an above average propensity for both alcohol and drug abuse. Surprisingly, despite this prolific substance use and the inherent occupational stressors, electronic musicians were shown to exhibit ‘moderate levels of functioning and wellbeing’ citing both resilience and social support as being important factors and predictors of mental health and wellbeing management.
Additionally, this research highlighted how half of the participants were able to access and use mental health support, which is typically larger than the general population and challenges the prevalent suffering artist cultural and media assumptions. This was a welcome find amongst the usual peddled trope. This meant that despite the myth of musicians not always helping themselves, they are starting to reach out for mental health support. I like this finding!
In all, the study provides updated insight into the contemporary musician, yet remains limited by the voluntary nature of the questionnaire and the use of online surveys. The musicians were also electronic (studio)-based creatives, which may reduce the high demands of the instrumental, touring musician-based struggles seen in other studies. Interestingly, the musicians also reported how 30.1% of them had previously been diagnosed with a mental health condition, while 55.2% had received mental health support. This is an important area that we at Tonic are currently researching. If you are interested in this research study, you can all contribute to here.
Adam Ficek hosts a monthly show 'Tonic Music' on Totally Wired Radio, where he talks to various guests about music and mental health. You can listen again to any of the previous show on the Tonic Music Mixcloud page.