The Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Study
The Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Study provides 86 pages of detailed insights and suggestions for improving Pittsburgh’s music scene. Perhaps not surprisingly, though, one topic it doesn’t touch directly is that of musician mental health. How can we address the “health” of the music ecosystem without addressing the health of the artists?
Across the U.S. and elsewhere, creatives are suffering from mental illness and dying at their own hands. High profile creatives who seem to have it all still suffer. Let’s consider, then, the suffering of our own local creatives who likely do not have the benefit of seemingly infinite resources. What, if anything, can be done?
— Psst. Wanna read the whole study? If so, here it is. —
We know that creatives suffer, as all people do; and there is evidence to suggest that creative people suffer from depression at a higher rate than the general public. Studies show that the neurological make-up of creative people may make them more susceptible to depression and anxiety, but that issues within the music industry aggravate these conditions.
I know something about this stuff: I am an active Pittsburgh musician, I am a Licensed Social Worker, I write about the connection between music and mind matters (such as mental health) in this blog, and – hey – I struggle with depression and anxiety myself.
In 2016 the University of Westminster and MusicTank, commissioned by Help Musicians UK, conducted a huge, landmark study of musicians. They determined musicians may be up to three times more likely to experience depression and anxiety than the general public. While respondents noted that making music was a comfort to them, they also believed that the music industry attributed to their distress through poor working conditions, a lack of recognition, physical impacts of performing, and issues related to being a woman in the industry.
Curious about the state of affairs in Pittsburgh, I conducted my own informal research. Of the approximately 50 musicians surveyed, 90% stated that they suffered from depression in their adult life. Pressure to succeed, issues of self-confidence, lack of time, and financial concerns were cited as the main music-related contributing factors. These concerns left some feeling “emotionally crippled” and asking “What’s the point?” Many felt that their art was neither respected nor profitable. “Can somebody just pay me in food and rent if I keep going? Please!” one respondent begged.
Read more about the UK Study and my survey findings in “Music is Hard!“
Pittsburgh Music Scene
So what? If we want the Pittsburgh music ecosystem to be healthy, we must ensure that artists are healthy. That means artists must have access to resources and supports for their mental health, physical health, and tangible needs. What Pittsburgh is lacking is an internal network for musicians – identified people who know the particular concerns and experiences of musicians whom are available to provide connections to the diverse and high-quality services that already exist.
“What Pittsburgh is lacking is an internal network for musicians – identified people who know the particular concerns and experiences of musicians whom are available to provide connections to the diverse and high-quality services that already exist.”
There are a lot of ways we can do this. In the UK they’ve set up Music Minds Matter, a 24/7 support and service line for the UK music community (I really like this idea). Musicians throughout the U.S. can apply for financial support from Musicians Foundation if experiencing a crisis. There are also places such as Passenger in Detroit that have sober spaces for local and touring musicians who struggle with addiction. Musician-centered supports like these are needed in Pittsburgh and could do wonders for the overall well-being of our music community.
An Idea: Musician-Centered Supports
Creatives are dying at their own hands, but they don’t have to. Having infinite resources doesn’t protect you from suffering, but having a community network of like-minded people to reach out to for compassion, support, and connection to resources just might save our lives. Anyone who wants to improve the music scene in Pittsburgh (and beyond) should consider the potential positives of a music scene that builds in support for musicians. We, the musicians – and those who care about us (or even just benefit from us) – have a responsibility to support ourselves and each other.
“Creatives are dying at their own hands, but they don’t have to …having a community network of like-minded people to reach out to for compassion, support, and connection to resources just might save our lives.”
While tortured artists might make the best music, they don’t live long. How can we artists come together to support one another? In addition to the plans laid out in the Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Study, I think that we should consider creating a central, musician-focused network that provides support and connection to community resources. Are you interested? Consider this a start to the conversation.
What do you think about the Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Study? What do you think about the lack of attention to musician mental health? Tell us your thoughts and ideas in the comments or contact us. Are you looking for some community resources right now? If so, scroll through our resources page. Be well!