Mental health issues in music

In my non music capacity I’ve for the last two decades worked in the area of mental health. I’m increasingly observing how in these tougher economic times, real mental health issues with artists and fans. I spoke to Jim Glennie founder of James about this and his observation was that there was not a great deal of help for artists even in 2024

Jim Glennie James

Attitudes during Covid 19

Covid 19 was a game changer for live music globally and in my view has been responsible for a real change in audience enthusiasm for some live events. I’m seeing this more at grassroots level, with many venues closing. During covid I was amazed at some artists refusing to appreciate the seriousness of the problem with anti vax views. Worse still they encouraged fans not to seek medical help, often convinced by wild and quite bonkers theories on social media.

Of course this kind of myopic thinking from some of these artists is not exclusive to health issues and I’ve seen many such individuals lurch from one crisis to another. Yes, people can have bad luck, but some individuals adopt a car crash strategy to life, constantly in crisis and often refusing any sensible professional advice on health and other issues.

Post covid effect on live music attendance

Without doubt covid 19 changed attitudes for many people in terms of attending live events. I know of many people who are still reluctant to attend any live events with health concerns. Of course there is still an enthusiasm for many major events and artists like Taylor Swift are selling out major tours. The grassroots level venues seem to be most affected and of cost tougher economic times have not helped matters.

Its important to remember that covid is still very much in society in 2024. The medical advances have helped stop mass illness. Fortunately vaccination has meant that its safer to return to attending and playing at live events. That said, I’m really mindful of the need to take special care before playing live in a way I would never have done in days gone by. I had one event as a major support act when I found the following day I had covid 19, when I could just about get through the set. This was a baptism of fire and not something I would like to repeat.

Personal sanity and definition

In this era of social media, its more important than ever to maintain good emotional health. Its easy to be drawn into spending hours on social media and wasting time talking to very polarised individuals. I’ve learned over the years “to stay away from the village idiots!” These characters can be identified as always believing that they are right and tend to pivot between aggression and playing the victim. They are often deeply unhappy, but a lot of this is due to their own insistance that they are right and everyone else is in the wrong! As my old boss used to comment – “He/She is well balanced, a chip on both shoulders!”

The key is to block such characters online, so you are not subjected to the unhealthy noise level that is always bad for mental health. You can also always spot these folks by their endless pleading for help! This often extends to wanting everyone else to support them emotionally and in many cases financially. Finally there’s usually a longstanding resentment towards others who are more successful in life and who have actually put in the hard work to develop skills and connect with others.

Music Managers Forum observations *

Anneliese Harmon, General Manager of the Music Managers Forum (MMF), believes that financial stress underpins the increasing psychological difficulty.

“The real problem, when it comes down to it, is financial pressure. When you don’t have money and you’re worried about how you’re going to keep your electricity on, or you’re working at Tesco during the day and in the studio at night, getting three hours of sleep; that causes mental health issues.” This becomes even more difficult for managers, whose roles has expanded considerably in the digital era, and are still expected to make their living from a 20% commission. “If the artist is broke, the manager gets 20% of broke. So the manager is normally suffering more than the artist, is the reality.”

The influence of social media and consulting “Dr Google” has also not helped the situation. Harmon comments

“We get a lot of people that reach out for support that are affected by social media. The toxicity around trolling, but also the pressure of followers, likes, engagement, because it seems to be the only thing that people care about anymore,” says Levers. “It’s really anxiety inducing for many people. There are lots of people now that call the helpline who are like, ‘My mental health has deteriorated so much because of social media, I can’t cope.’”

  • Full article Clash Magazine, see HERE