Is the european music industry in good shape?
A talk moderated and curated by CURA Collectif.
Working in music today can lead, in my vision, to two fundamental questions: how do you become the next Avicii and also how do you avoid becoming the next Avicii. Of course, you can wish to be as successful as Avicii was but also you don’t want to go as far as he went to the very dramatic situations that we all know he’s been through. So, in success, as in indifference or in failure, pursuing a career in the artistic field can lead to an immense satisfaction as well as a deep disappointment.
The MIL URL talk Is the European Music Industry in good shape? was introduced by Shkyd, French music producer, DJ, writer and co-founder of the CURA Collectif, with the statement above. The talk that was supposed to happen in MIL brought together different perspectives from the health sector in the music industry to understand the difficulties of this industry and what can be done. The panel was composed by Coralie Cousin, physiotherapist for musicians, Esther Van Der Poel, personal coach at PACCT Amsterdam, Pierluxx, music manager, Sally-Anne Gross, programme director of MA Business Management and Sandrine Bileci, naturopath/health coach and member of CURA Collectif.
THE MUSIC INDUSTRY AND HEALTH
Sally-Anne explains that health
has always been something that has floated around in the atmosphere of the music industry as, when working with artists, you become aware that expressing emotions is pretty much part of their being. When Esther started working in the music industry, she noticed that artists were dealing with a lot of pressure (especially now with social media) and not enjoying the present – as they always start their careers with passion and love but then they just can’t be satisfied, so they never stop.
By the time Esther founded PACCT Amsterdam, a project of coaching and counseling for artists, a lot of music professionals congratulated her but most of them didn’t acknowledge it could be directed to their own artists . Initially, mainly managers, thought they could do the job: talk to the artists to make sure they were feeling okay. However, Esther explains, managers (and other professionals) have additional interests that, even unconsciously, will not put artists’ mental health as the priority.
As a young music professional in Belgium, Pierre describes why it is difficult to consider the Belgian music industry as an industry:
All of the artists are obliged to sign a deal in France or to export and this is due to the size of the country and also its infrastructure, which is not yet very developed. So, you imagine that the mental health of artists is completely neglected. (…) It’s not even questioned. Therefore, Pierre defends that it is fundamental to be interested in this topic, especially in his relationship as a manager with his artists at the early stages of their careers.
WHAT ABOUT THE PHYSICAL HEALTH?
Throughout her career, Coralie met around 6000 instrumentalists from all music styles and reached the conclusion that their main injury is stress. The principal reasons are the lack of prevention in conservatories and music schools and of specialized physiotherapists. Learning an instrument requires practicing for long hours with an intense repetition of movements which, when done in an incorrect way, may lead to physical burnout. And artists are used to work and live with their pain – since acknowledging it means stopping their activity as musicians for an undefined period of time.
So, the really important is to do prevention, to build strategy, to put physiotherapists in the school and that musicians know they can reach a physiotherapist who knows what she’s speaking about and gives simple advice, Coralie concludes.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
According to Sally-Anne, her study Can music make you sick? revealed
how systemic the working practices of the music industry are. Of course, the improvement of everyone’s health requires individual work, but Sally-Anne highlights that
it’s very important to, for musicians themselves, not always to think they are responsible. You don’t need to be superman. (…) Nobody should be working 24/7 and never turn their phone off and reply to every email and make a new track every five minutes.
Sandrine agrees, stating that both musicians and music professionals are facing a “disbalance between their personal life and professional life.” Sandrine is part of CURA Collectif, that ran the first French study on mental health for artists and music professionals and was published in October 2019. Within a panel of 500 people (half male and half female), 4 out of 5 people declared they are struggling with anxiety and 25% got diagnosed with depression at least once in their lifetime. Analyzing these figures within France, this study concluded that
musicians or music business professionals in France are two times more likely to be diagnosed with depression. So, it really shows about their sensitivity. So, Sandrine explains,
the biggest challenge is really to have people understand that these people are more prompt to have depression, but it is our duty, as an industry, to care for these people twice as much.
The obstacles towards good mental health is structural, as we said, but it’s also pretty much based on gender: Sandrine reveals that one of three women declared that they were suffering or had suffered sexual harassment, and one person out of two (especially women) suffered from moral harassment.
So, everyone agrees, mental health – and health in general – needs to stop being a taboo. The main question is, definitely, that people don’t know they need help or where to find it. Therefore, it is fundamental to get together and talk about it. In addition, it is important to address the financial condition of working in the music industry, which became so evident during the pandemic crisis we are living in. Sally-Anne states that
in terms of the European individual government support for musicians, at this point, there has to be some kind of universal basic income across Europe to bring all musicians away from living always on the edge of the cliff.
Julien concludes that
the more we get together and the more we talk about these things together, the more profiles are getting known, the more artists will have a stronger understanding and stronger links to be able to reach out to the people that they really need.
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