Why Our Great Artists Are Dying

Mental Health in the Music Industry

Music is good for an individual’s mental health. Yet, the therapeutic release that listeners gain from listening to music isn’t felt the same way by musicians. Mental health has become a hot topic in the last few years with a number of industries from sports to finance taking a look at how to improve the mental health of others. The music industry is not one of the sectors that has focused heavily on mental health, however.

The tortured musician is often seen as an artist capable of making great songs, but many of these individuals are experiencing mental health issues created by a variety of factors. In a 2017 interview with pop star Lady Gaga¹, she expressed that making it through the meat grinder that is the music industry “traumatized” her.

Music is an arena that enables those who become vastly successful to become burnt out. The pressure to perform on a regular basis live and to record hit songs for every album makes it difficult for a musician not to burn out and become jaded. Many singers and songwriters turn to drugs to alleviate the pressure they feel.

In July 2011, the music world was turned on its head when Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning. The famed singer essentially drank herself to death. Having attempted suicide previously, Winehouse’s death brought the mental health issues musicians face into the mainstream. Yet, nearly a decade after her passing, it seems little has been done to help those in the industry struggling with mental health.

While high-level musicians may struggle with their mental health on a big stage, the individuals just hoping to crack the big time in the industry are just as likely (perhaps more) to suffer from mental health issues. Bands, singers, and songwriters who struggle to make it professionally and financially can feel empty. A worthless feeling created from a lack of success can set in resulting in a person committing self-harm.

Are creative individuals more likely to suffer from mental health problems?

It is often believed that individuals that are creative are more likely to suffer from mental health problems. New studies are finding that mental health issues may exist in musicians more than in the general population. Mental illness could be rife in the music industry amongst individuals. Anxiety is one mental illness that is prevalent in the music industry and plenty of musicians use drugs and alcohol to combat their issues.

Physical health issues can be brought on by excessive substance abuse. Years of drug and alcohol misuse can result in an early death such as in the case of Winehouse and Elvis Presley. According to data compiled in the United States, around half of all people who experience mental illness also experience substance abuse throughout their lives².

In 2018, a study undertaken by the Music Industry Research Association³ found that 50% of musicians battle symptoms associated with depression. In contrast, less than 25% of the adult population report feeling symptoms of depression. Frighteningly, almost 12% of musicians claimed to have suicidal thoughts. The figure is around four times that of the general adult population.

The independent music sector is an area that may see even more mental illness as individuals seek to break into the mainstream or just make enough money to live on. Record Union, a Swedish digital music platform, conducted a study that found almost 75% of indie musicians have dealt with depression, anxiety, and stress in their careers.

Musicians are overworked

You may think that being a musician is easy. Individuals show up, play gigs, collect their money, and go to afterparties. The truth could not be more different than the stereotype. A small percentage of all the professional musicians in the world get to enjoy immense comfort due to the wealth they have made.

According to a Billboard interview with Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman⁴, digital music and streaming has forced many musicians to go out and tour more than they used to. The need to make a living has made touring and playing live shows the only way to make income. To combat being on the road incessantly, many musicians are turning to drugs and alcohol. Being on the road makes drugs and alcohol a musician’s only companion in a lonely world. Substance abuse can also result from the fraying of relationships that occur from an individual being away from home for long periods.

Being overworked is a real problem for musicians and substance abuse can result from it. Presley famously took uppers to help him to get through various stages of burnout during his career. The use of uppers leads to a vicious cycle in which individuals may have to take downers to relax or sleep.

Substance misuse just one contributor to mental illness

Substance abuse can be a major contributor to mental illness for musicians⁵. It isn’t the only factor that can lead to a person’s mental health being poor. The modern music industry is more unstable than ever with digital streams being a difficult way for musicians to make a living. Digital streaming platforms like Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music make it possible for the top-tier of musicians to make money. However, there is little financial reward for indie or smaller musicians and groups. At least not enough financial reward to live on comfortably.

Due to the instability some musicians face financially, stress and anxiety can be magnified. Individuals can feel loneliness, a strain on their relationships, experience poor sleeping and eating habits, and lack access to health insurance and care. All of these issues can combine to affect a musician’s mental health. The lifestyle puts musicians on a collision course with issues that are often seen as ideal for musicians to create great music.

Being a professional musician can reward an individual with immense fame and fortune. Yet, getting to the level of being a highly successful professional musician can be mentally draining. Retaining that position can be just as difficult. Mental health issues abound in the music industry and it is no wonder that a large percentage of singers and songwriters have experienced depression, anxiety, and other disorders.

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About the Author

Maxwell Harrington is the lead architect of The Physis Method™ as well as the creator & pioneer behind Tripnotherapy™, embracing ‘NextGen’ psychedelic biopharmaceuticals to treat addiction, depression, anxiety and serious psychological unease. Under his leadership as CEO, Physis Recovery received the accolade of Best Luxury Clinic status by Worlds Best Rehab Magazine. Because of his incredible work, the clinic is the world’s first $1 million-plus rehab center with locations in four premier destinations.








Eggertsen, C. (2019). New Study Finds 73% of Independent Musicians Suffer Symptoms of Mental Illness. Billboard. Retrieved from: https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/8509490/mental-illness-independent-musicians-study-73-percent-record-union.

Physis Recovery. (2020). About Physis Recovery Luxury Rehab. Retrieved from: https://physisrecovery.rehab/about/

Wolchover, N. (2012). Why Are Genius and Madness Connected? LiveScience. Retrieved from: https://www.livescience.com/20713-genius-madness-connected.html.

Biello, D. (2011). Is There a Link Between Creativity and Addiction? Scientific American. Retrieved from: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-a-link-between-creativity-and-addiction/.

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