Is Making Music Making You Depressed? New Study Shows That Music Takes a Psychological Toll on Artists

by Cari Cole


Just to be a musician takes 15 – 20 years of hard work to even be worthy, and that’s the straight up truth. 10,000 hours and nothing less to stand on that world stage. And all without any promise of any real return. Not for the faint of heart. It’s a very noble and honorable quest. Yet, it’s one of the most unsupported fields in the arts.

A recent article from Pitchfork says that musicians are way more likely to be depressed and anxious.  Pitchfork says: “Working in the music industry might indeed be making musicians sick,” reports survey by the University of Westminster and the charity Help Musicians UK. Musicians and music industry professionals may be more than three times more likely to suffer from depression than the general public, according to a new study published by Help Musicians UK, a charity for UK musicians. The report, titled “Can Music Make You Sick?,” is based on a survey of 2,211 people by the University of Westminster and its music-business think tank, MusicTank. The bulk of participants identified themselves as musicians, with live crew, music management, and audio production among other roles represented. Of all respondents, 71% reported they have experienced anxiety and panic attacks. Another 65% reported they had suffered from depression. By comparison, 19% of the general UK population over the age of 16 suffers from anxiety, depression, or both, according to the latest official data. It’s the lack of support doing something that’s not considered ‘real work.’” (*Pitchfork article)

That last line above is a real kicker. Ask any musician. And it’s not just some musicians – every musician feels or has felt this at some point, or maybe does right now. A conversation I had last week about the lack of credibility artists have to deal with before they are “proven.” It can be devastating. So much so that some artists walk away because they can’t stand the degradation.

It’s important that we work together to change this perception. Being a musician is honorable, notable, admirable. Period.

It’s time to take some power back. Yepper. Just because people don’t get you, don’t let it get you down. Knowing your worth, standing more firmly rooted in your own shoes, and having a dignified response can turn it around quickly instead of lost weeks spent spiraling down.


3 Ways to Instantly Uplevel Your Musician Mindset and Own Your Music Career


1. Be Proud Of Yourself


It’s not everyone who can do this. From the hours and hours of sacrifice to become a musician, to the years of performing & touring to prove yourself, to the inexhaustible resources one has to provide and all dedication and commitment against the odds — you should be very proud of yourself. Stand a little taller my friend. How we think about ourselves is how others feel us. Plus, you deserve it.


2. Daily Positive Musician Mindset Practice


Fact: Musicians need all the help they can get. Fact: Your mind fights you every day (often it’s your subconscious, not even your conscious mind.)

Establishing a daily practice where you boost your mindset will work nothing short of magic in your life as a musician.

First, when you wake up, speak aloud one thing you are grateful for. “I am grateful for xxx.” This simple practice elevates your mindset and sets you up for a better day (and it takes 5 seconds ;))

Second, after you state your gratitude, set your intention for the day. What would you like to experience more of in your day? Using intention, we can color our day and affect the outcome more powerfully. “I intend to experience more clarity today…” Fill in the blank that you really want to have more of each day.

This simple practice (that takes all of 15 seconds) has profoundly impacted and improved my quality of life in the 3 short months I’ve been practicing it. Let me know how it goes for you!


3. Taking Care of Those Who Don’t Understand, Without Dimming Your Light


Just standing up for yourself and helping those around you understand what you’re up against, and what you need, can make all the difference.

Here’s a few responses to help:

To the person (Mom or Dad) who don’t understand why you’ve chosen this path:

“I know most people don’t understand what it’s like to be a musician when it seems so impractical. I know that a career in music is not easy, but for now, I am willing to take that risk. I decided awhile ago now that I’m a musician through and through – and that it’s  never going to change. I have a gut feeling that if I stick to it, I can accomplish some success. Even if you don’t get what I’m doing, your support and understanding would really help ;). Thanks!”

To the friends and fans that wonder why you haven’t made it yet or gone on the Voice (or worse already have and still haven’t made it):

“It’s not so simple. The music industry is a complex industry and each artist’s path is unique. Being on The Voice or getting signed does not even guarantee you’ll make it. Sometimes it actually hurts you more than it helps (how many famous artists do you know who came from these television series?) The truth is, I’m working on it and I’m closer than ever before. Hang in there with me, and you’ll be the first to toast to success with me! (Oh and that gives you plenty of time to find that vintage Valentino dress ready for an award ceremony! ;)”)

You CAN do this. I’m rooting for YOU. Never give up ~ ever. I’m so glad I didn’t.


* To read the full Pitchfork article click here.



  • Carl Mally

    I think it is a lot deeper than this article. In the act of making music we are tapping into and touching deep emotional streams. There is immense power there and power is dangerous. People who work around very high voltage power systems go to significant lengths to protect themselves and sometimes still get knocked off their feet. I have witnessed it. Or they can be killed. These emotional currents carry that kind of power. Or we spend years dancing around those streams, recognizing they are there but are unable to fully touch them, not quite knowing where the elephant is.. That brings deep frustration. Touching and dealing with the expression of deepest emotion, some of which cannot be expressed quite in words can bring ti out in strange ways, cause strange, unexpected effects in us that we are not always prepared for. I believe this is one of the reasons, aside from the lifestyle and socialization issues that so many musicians are involved in substance abuse, family difficulties, instability and other even more serious issues such as mental illness and suicide.

    The lifestyle does not help either, working odd, irregular hours,not getting enough sleep, being on the road all the time, not having a stable family life. On top of that so many of the venues are places encouraging heavy alcohol or substance use and you will regularly be around other people who have their own issues and are not all together. It takes an extremely stable and perceptive person to be subject to all this and not show some cracks in the facade.

    Not to downgrade the issues you bring up in your article but I believe these other things have as much or more to do with musicians emotional difficulties than the lack of support and workplace pressures which are experienced in many other professions today. Thank you for your blog and the food for thought here.

    • For sure it is. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.