The music industry is a pressured environment. As an aspiring singer, I have had my fair share of late nights, poor pay and awkward conversations with dodgy pub landlords. In contrast to your typical 9-5 job, being a musician couldn’t be any different.
Being a successful musician has become so much less about the music, and more about your image and media coverage. Never has there been more pressure for artists to be attractive, quirky, bright and exciting. To make it, they also need to be able to travel long distances for little pay, put up with poor sleeping conditions (pillows on the backseat?) and anti-social hours that means any chance of seeing friends and family becomes slim to none. There is no surprise working in these conditions, that musicians are three times more at risk of mental illness than the general public.
Picture this: a cramped corner of your local pub, filled head to toe with musicians; each one armed with their own instruments, everyone more peculiar and individual than the other. It’s a weekly open mic night and the time for musicians to crawl out from their hiding places and show the world what they have been working on. Unfortunately, the track that you’ve finally nailed and are keen to perform sounds just like that song the guy before you has just sung. You realize that everything about you that you thought was unique is echoed in all of the other musicians here, and they’re all older, wiser and better than you.
Okay, that may be a drastic account of my own experience at an event like that, but talk to any musician and they will agree that there is constant pressure to be different and unique, all while still being what everyone wants to listen to and look at. An open mic night becomes less about showcasing your ideas, but more about comparing yourself to other peoples and realising how far you have to go.
Of course, saying ‘the music industry needs to change’ is pointless without describing how. Help Musicians UK is a charity that aims to support musicians in maintaining a healthy mentality throughout their career. This could be through organising short term financial loans for living and housing costs. It could be through signposting those who feel they are struggling towards the correct services. The industry needs to become more aware of the pressures it places on its workers and it needs to adapt to ensure a better level of well-being throughout.