DOES PRESSURE TO PERFORM PUT A STRAIN ON A MUSICIANS CREATIVITY ?

Music also has the power to transform by giving voice to our feelings.

Whenever a well-known musician comes out with a story of their depression or anxiety or when one is found dead through suicide someone somewhere will comment. How could someone making a success of their dream end up in such a state?

The famous names are just the ones we get to read about. The ones who make the front pages after committing suicide are those whose fame is great enough for their final act to be noticed. Lower down the commercial scale, it’s hard in a different way but with fewer people to notice, no headlines, no news stories. Yet the same emotional pain and isolation impacts artists at both ends of the spectrum. For artists who attract media attention they find it harder to find support. Trust that their personal struggles won’t be leaked, a confidentiality document will never ascertain trust, only a relationship built on shared values.

It’s important to know the powerful role that your beliefs play in creating your life experience and the way you feel. Feelings always follow our thoughts. Our circumstances don’t make us, they just reveal who we are. Your life doesn’t make you feel bad, your thinking does.

The music industry equals instability and as a career you are continually searching for the balance when you’re pushing your body and mind to their limits. When you’re touring and in a new city every day and only there for a couple of hours, we take the emotional strain for granted. It’s very hard on your body and mind. It impacts your relationships and can put a strain on your home life. If you’re not in a supportive environment, it’s hard to reach out as many artist who trust too quick have been burned just as fast.

What is really evident is that there’s an uncertainty within the industry of what support looks like. Giving artists the number of an organisation to seek support is like telling the drowning man he should of wore a life jacket. Musicians regularly experience that, where they’re on the edge of things becoming challenging for them in terms of managing their day-to-day lives, their personal finances, their family, their health and feeling more isolated in the midst of it.

As musicians we need a high sense of meaning, having a defined purpose and a sense of serving something larger than our work. Musicians often say their profession is such a central element to their identity, it can be hard to dissociate their sense of self from their work identity. As a result, it can be hard to dissociate the value attributed to their performances from their evaluation of their self-worth. Once being an artist becomes your day-to-day mindset, then stuff like pain just becomes material, and fear becomes performance, and anxiety becomes confidence. It is here you can lose the connection with art and reality.

For many musicians, cancelling gigs when they feel like they can’t cope isn’t an option for them their bandmates, their crew, their managers and their promoters. The dependence on them turning up is the difference for a whole host of people getting paid. For the most part, managers and labels push their acts as far as they can without the necessary support structure in place. Zayn Malik of One Direction had anxiety so severe that it forced him to cancel several solo tours. He felt exposed, performing became a cause of anxiety and not a release of his inner genius. Even just the act of trying to break into the industry can be so stressful that it can have a massive impact on an artist’s health. Your attitude towards life and your beliefs about life originate within you. The way you view life isn’t something that happens to you, it’s something you think up as you move through life.

The model is push push push, if it breaks then onto the next one.

The majority of musicians are self-employed, those with record deals aren’t employed by the labels, they are contracted to supply a service. It is not straight forward for an artists to receive support. When you focus on your personal development you become aware of the issues that could derail you. You might have to cancel a tour to focus on your well-being rather than feed the cash cow. We all have our own struggles and each negative reinforcement convinces us further that we won’t escape how we are feeling. Problem is are feelings are a result of our thinking. At any moment in your life you can decide to change your perspective. Your perspective is made up of your thoughts, change them and your world changes.

After the death of Avicii it made me wonder about the hidden battles we fight that no one sees. His family stated that Avicii was depressed, he continued to struggle with thoughts about meaning, life and happiness. “Avicii can no longer continue living, he wants to feel peace,” said a family member. Looking back, we remember the story of Kurt Cobain. Was this the trigger for Chester Bennington. The vocalist of Linkin Park who decided to end his life on the birthday of his rock n roll mentor, in the same way. Our thoughts are harmless until we focus upon them.

It is impossible to feel good if you fill your mind with negativity!

Depression never discriminates, it has no preferences. It is a time bomb that explodes once its triggered. I believe musicians are prone to depression as they continually make them selves vulnerable. The content of their work is continually judged and for some the critiquing can be too personal.

You feel the way you do because of the thoughts you are having!

Is there a connection between depression and creatives? Depression has many faces from acute to chronic. Some musicians have fought depression for a lifetime and still in the end give up and end their lives. It’s easy to understand how sudden fame, or a lifestyle built around creating music and live shows, could lead to drug and alcohol abuse, or even cause serious health issues. You feel you have no control of the machine and your just along for the ride. Our responses to life are not carved in stone, they are simply habits keeping us miserable. First we think negatively and then we feel bad. The bad feelings encourage us to think more negatively opening the door to depression.

Why are musicians so vulnerable to negative thinking?

To be a musicians is intense, from creating music, to pleasing an ever changing audience. A musician takes from what is inside them and shares it with the world. Then that piece of themselves can become talking points to all. Yet what we think about ourselves will make us or break us.

“Music was my refuge,” said Maya Angelou. “I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”

The impact of trolls on the well-being of musicians could be a tipping point, if you already believe negatively about yourself.

Today it has become normal to comment or tweet negativity, rude or insulting things to musicians. This occurs when both expressing an opinion, or for banter. Nothing is off the agenda, from their personal life, their appearance, their music, or choices they make in their personal lives. The idea that we can say anything online without consequence is toxic. The sense of entitlement many feel toward musicians and commenting on their personal lives, especially when the content expressed is unnecessary and harsh, means we need to see change.

Happiness is a feeling that you tap into not an outcome of events.

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Navigating your way through the industry not only throws up questions regarding earning a living. It also puts a strain on your physical and mental well- being. Drugs and alcohol have featured in the lifestyles of many performers for so long that sometimes it’s difficult to tell if depression is the symptom or the cause, but the one sure thing as you think you are this is what you become. Some artists use them to steady their nerves before performances; others use them to come down from the high of the performance.

Happiness comes first and a good life comes out of feeling happy!

Musicians are influencers and their sphere of influence can be far reaching. So, it becomes an obligation for musicians to maintain their well-being, so that there core audience or anyone who follows them can also participate in maintaining a healthy life balance. Many people who become performers do so to fulfill a dream, some want their talent to be appreciated, they need that affirmation to be able to feel good about themselves. Many leave packed arenas only to go home to an empty house. Unhappy people don’t see there thoughts as thoughts they see them as reality. They hold onto thoughts that bring them down, giving them life, making them more formidable than they really are. A happy person is willing to admit their thoughts are dysfunctional. They jump at the opportunity to admit their thinking is the problem. You are responsible for your happiness not someone else.

The feeling you live in depends on where you focus. If you focus on and feel grateful for what you have in each moment that thought process will become the norm. If you focus on what is lacking, you will always find a way to attract more of what you don’t like. We must always remember our inner world reflects our outer world. If we have areas in our lives that we have not worked through. They will work there way out in our behaviour. It is a fine balance as some say it’s only when you emerge from a period of darkness in your life you will find the words to describe it. So maybe the key to being a great artist and songwriter is to dare to go to those dark places, but seek the necessary support to learn how to overcome them so it becomes a road you understand how to navigate through.

You are the thinker of your own thoughts and it’s only your thinking that is holding your negativity in place!

Using the skills of a trained coach is a way to improve every aspect of your life. It is a way to realise so many different possibilities and to achieve more than you thought was possible. As a musician we all face obstacles that can hinder our progress, that can so often derail us. How many great musicians have never performed their masterpieces due to performance anxiety. How many great songs have never been released as the artists struggles with self limiting beliefs. We need musicians to focus the same intensity in their personal lives as they do in their professional lives. As a coach I focus on an artists life outside the industry so they can thrive inside of it.

The future and the past are just thoughts, whereas life is right now. So live your life in the present moment and be grateful you have this moment!

Your own thinking is the most significant factor in determining the quality of your life. This is because your thinking directs the way you feel. The feelings you live in depends on where your focus of attention lies. Start looking for what is right in your life.

Basil Reynolds

Coaching Consultant

Finding the Music Inside