Coping with music’s mental health crisis

When Hval realized that it had to cancel several dates again earlier this year due to logistical problems, state funding meant it could afford it. “There’s this idea that when you’re on tour, it’s like you’re in a disaster movie, like every show is your last show, and it’s the end of time,” he said of the typical touring mentality. “But if you’re going to do the end times for 20 years, you’re just going to die.”

“Things need to be sustainable,” Hval added, noting how artists can often feel pressured to take too much responsibility from managers or promoters who work for them and earn a percentage. “We don’t talk about it enough to make people realize there’s a way to do less and have a healthier, more fulfilling career instead of just 10 years from the end of time and then being left without a proper job for the rest. of your life because you chose this, or with addictions or mental health problems that accumulate because you have learned that they must be invisible until you crash.

The moral imperative of change

The broader issues related to music and mental health are out in the open now and demand to be confronted. The powers that be in music—labels, managers, promotional companies—must address the moral imperative to make more immediate resources available to them as they join the fights for systemic change. Whether through unions or other models, continued organizing efforts by musicians will be vital to bridging fractured discourses and helping artists learn about the resources that are currently available to them.

Jeff Tweedy expressed the hope that the music industry will continue to develop stronger mental health awareness because creating is itself a generative act. “Art should model a good strategy for life, a good strategy for other people,” Tweedy said. “You can comment on the darkness without fully accepting it. I want people to feel free to make art and promote the idea that it’s actually really healthy. Everyone would probably be a little better off if they could intentionally spend time with their imaginations.”

Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker echoed the sentiment. “In the past, I’ve gotten a lot of praise for my ability to be this machine,” says Lenker. “But I truly believe that while a career can thrive from taking on more and doing more, art thrives from having the balance of rest and taking care of your inner world and well-being. Rest is more valuable than productivity.”

For his part, Santigold wants to encourage more musicians to speak out about the unsustainable conditions of their work and the physical and psychological repercussions. “It’s important for artists to feel that they can be vulnerable, because then it becomes something they can relate to, and that’s what we need,” she said. “This is a communal problem.”

There’s a bit of irony in how, over the summer, Beyoncé yelled out Santigold at the remix to “Break My Soul,” a song that, in its own (contradictory) way, spins a kind of narrative about the crushing realities of work and health under capitalism. “I hope that artists of that level are not afraid to join this conversation, because they are welcome,” added Santigold, after looking up the song’s lyrics. “The burden is too much. The rate of music consumption demands a relentless lifestyle that artists cannot follow. It breaks your soul.”

He hoped listeners would see the whole picture. “It is a dangerous situation in our society where many people see artists as non-human and therefore cannot have compassion for them. [these issues]he continued, “but we need our fans to start listening to the other sides of these stories.” In general, the artists interviewed for this piece had a unifying request to imagine a more sustainable future: to be seen not as merchandise but as human beings.

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