I’ve been involved in the music industry for over 18 years in a variety of capacities. I’m a singer and a songwriter, been part of many bands and music projects, worked as a session singer, a backing vocalist, have featured on dance records and am currently one half of an acoustic folk duo.
When I’m writing lyrics, I take a lot from my own experiences and of those around me, especially when it comes to mental health struggles. I have suffered with depression and anxiety on and off for a long time. Whilst I’m not blaming the music industry for these issues, some of the experiences I’ve had over the years have contributed to my struggles. The music industry can be a wonderful place, but the pitfalls are huge and can be damaging to any musician or music industry professional, no matter what their position is in the industry.
I also work as a counsellor with musicians and other music industry professionals. I’ve written articles for publications such as Therapy Today about mental health and the music industry, and I meet up with help musicians and other music charities on a regular basis speaking at conferences for various music organisations. I’ve also hosted a radio show called ‘Mind Over Music’ interviewing musicians on their experiences of mental health.
I’ve met some wonderful musicians whilst on the show and it always astounds me how open others can be when it comes to their mental health experiences. I’m very fortunate to have had guests on my show who have all been more than willing to share their struggles, and discuss the issues surrounding being involved in the music industry that may have caused some of their depression, anxiety and other mental health problems.
Whether being involved in the music industry is a career choice, or something you do in your free time, it’s inevitable that you’re going to be affected in one way or another and to different extremes, depending on who you are and your experiences.
As a musician, you have dedicated a certain amount of your time to music. You’ve put your heart and soul into it and now you’re putting your music out there for everyone to hear.
So, why aren’t you ‘making it’?
This is a question that’s been posed a lot lately. I speak to many different musicians on this subject and it’s such an interesting one. You’d have to start with a question: ‘what is ‘making it’ to you?’
To many musicians, making it would be to sign a significant record deal and have your abilities and talent recognised by people in the know. You’ve finally reached the place you wanted to be, all the hard work has paid off and you’re getting what you deserve. To others, making it means to make a living out of music and not need to have a job on the side to fund your music.
It’s difficult to be involved in music and not hear or use the phrase ‘making it’. People use the phrase as a measure of success, but it really is relational to your own individual definition of what making it is. It’s a gift to have the ability to pour your heart and soul into a song and then perform it for others. It’s cathartic to go through a horrible break up and get it all out into a song. It’s important to recognise that your ability to be able to do that is a massive part of who you are and why you’re involved in music and keep reminding yourself of this along the way.
If you feel like the idea of ‘making it’ and everything that it entails is having a negative effect on your mental health, here are a few self- care tips to help you manage your feelings without sacrificing your drive and ambition.
- Ask yourself ‘’Why am I doing this?’’ It sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how many people are involved in music because it’s what they’ve done for a long time and can’t imagine doing anything else. Are you still enjoying it? Why? What do you like about music, especially the music you play? What do you want out of it? What’s the end game for you?
- If you feel that the only thing that will make you happy is the recognition and validation of others, that’s when things are going to become difficult. People won’t always like your stuff, hell, sometimes people might hate it! Having a ‘thick skin’ is something that people tell you that you need in any creative industry, especially within music. But there’s a point where having a thick skin might not be good enough and despite all of your stamina and determination, things have gotten to you. Take some time out. Even just for a few days. Put the music aside and spend some time doing other things you enjoy. Don’t feel guilty, you need this time so you can re-evaluate and come back stronger.
- Remember that you are awesome. Nobody can take your ability to play music and enjoy it away from you. It’s wonderful to have ambition and want others to hear your music, it deserves to be heard! Just keep asking yourself what ‘making it’ means to you and what’s realistic in order to maintain your mental health.
- It’s ok to be worn down and cynical sometimes, especially when you feel you’re constantly striving. It’s understandable that you might question why you’re doing this. Most musicians will have been through this at some point. If it’s becoming unmanageable and you’ve recognised you might needs some help, please get in touch with the support lines below:
- 24/7 Helpline - 0808 802 8008
- 24/7 Helpline- 0800 030 6789
- UK- 116 123 Ireland- 116 123
About the author:
Rachel Jepson has been a singer, songwriter and performer for over 18 years. She is currently one half of acoustic folk duo 'Parent'. Rachel is also a qualified counsellor working with organisations such as the NHS, BUPA and AnxietyUK. She founded her company at the start of 2017, working with musicians and their mental health.
Rachel has counselled students at BIMM and FutureWorks, amongst others, and delivers training on how tutors can help manage students suffering with anxiety and depression. She hosted her own radio show on Reform Radio called 'Mind Over Music' talking to musicians about mental health in the music industry. Nominated for a ‘Women In Music Award’ for her work with musicians and mental health, Rachel is frequently asked to speak at music conferences, and is a published author on the subject of mental health in the music industry.