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Musicians, the industry, objects and humans.

In this weeks blog I take another brief excursion away from the usual research and explore my recently published paper.

The study surrounds the innate difficulty and struggle involved with seeing the humans in our favourite bands or the industry people we work with. My paper also explored how musicians can feel misunderstood and almost seen as inanimate objects in the music industry. This of course can also work both ways with managers, labels and touring staff also suffering from the same fate of losing their subjective humanness. But, my research was conducted with musicians so I will stick to this area for now.

My paper found three themes:

  1. Being viewed as an object in the musicking environment

  2. The hidden identity and the misunderstandings of public perception

  3. The impact of compromise and self-censorship in the musicking environment

In a way these themes are all connected through feelings of being unseen and projected upon and almost lost as a human being. This also involved feelings of objectification derived from the anger of sexualised abuse, frustration towards tokenistic gesturing and sadness towards commercial pressure. The musicians also felt misunderstood which is something I often speak about in other writing and is often a main topic in the peer groups.

The true experience of being a musician is difficult to grasp, why would anyone do it? Especially in an increasingly financially precarious world! I think the life of a musician is probably quite an anomaly to those that have never swam in the musicking ocean. Perhaps it’s a need, perhaps it’s a choice, it is a complex and nuanced area.

This struggle to be understood was highlighted by the musicians in my study when they approached therapists that ‘didn’t get them’ or audience members that didn’t quite grasp the difficulty surrounding the strain of touring and performing. Of course, it can be exhilarating but it can also be fragmenting. 

The last part of the study highlighted the ways in which the musicians felt that they had to self-censor to meet the needs of others or to resist conflict in the occupational environment. This resonates with my own experience of treading carefully in commercial spaces to an extent, yet we (the band) did have a rebellious reputation which helped to cultivate our sense of agency and mitigate any external control. Alas, most of the time musicians are not this fortunate and have to tread a careful line of getting their own needs met vs personal incongruence.

In all I feel very proud that my personal experiences (and my research participants) are able to inform my own clinical practice, peer groups and these blogs. It’s vital that musicians have a voice rather than being just a number or a commercial entity.

We all do it but perhaps consider the human being underneath the musician or the manager. We can all have a very heavy load placed upon us during stressful times in this world of the music industry.  

If you want to be understood and be heard by others in the music industry then consider attending one of the Peer Support Groups offered by Tonic Rider.


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.


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