Zuby: The Alarming Truth About Musicians and Mental Health
Following on from his latest album release titled 'Perseverance - The Best of Zuby', we asked Zuby to tell us his late night thoughts on mental health and the music industry. Here is what he had to say!
"The life of a musician is often cold, lonely and exhausting. Long days and longer nights, endless solitude, constant rejection and low, unstable pay. Couple that with a creative personality that's high in openness and emotionality. Add to that the constant feeling that nobody really understands you nor appreciates your value. Then combine that with a culture and industry where drugs, alcohol and reckless behaviour are not only accepted and tolerated, but often encouraged and celebrated.
Is it really any surprise that over 60% of musicians have struggled with mental health issues? When you consider the factors above, it's a surprise that it's not 100%.
Most musicians don't become musicians because we seek fame, glory, groupies, nor trash bags full of cash. Ok, some do. But it's hard to keep going if that's your only motive. Remember that fame and success do not alleviate the risk to an artist's psyche. On the contrary, they may exacerbate it. As we have seen time and time again with the number of famous musicians lost to substance abuse and suicide.
We make music because we are creative, artistic souls, who believe the best way we can contribute to society is by baring our souls and sharing our thoughts and unique perspectives through our lyrics and melodies.
The artist expresses feelings and thoughts in a way the average person cannot. Whether through rapping, singing, or playing an instrument, every musician exposes their vulnerability to create something they feel is important and valuable. A song that could help you get through your own struggles, or be the soundtrack to your workout, commute, or even wedding.
And what do most artists receive for this? A fraction of a penny per stream, low (often zero) payment for live performances and worst of all, apathy.
Unless you're in the top 0.1% where extreme fame and fortune can certainly be found, then the harsh truth is most people will never hear about your music. Those who do, probably won't care.
That goes for the general public but also for the music industry itself. Record labels, promotion companies, agents, radio stations and even DJs (the supposed champions of new music) don't want to hear it unless it's already 'popping'. It's not rare to hear them complain about how much music they receive, or even express outright disdain for the musicians themselves - the very people who allow them to have these jobs in the first place.
Consider a gig. Nobody would think about not paying the bar staff, security, or sound engineer - yet the bands or artists who people came to see and hear are often expected to work for free (or even pay for the ‘privilege’). It's not right.
The truth is that many musicians do not feel valued because people do not treat them as if what they do is valuable. Fans expect the music to be free and promoters expect upcoming artists to perform for free - frequently not even offering to cover travel costs for an out of town gig.
The music industry is a strange world where the people who create the foundation that it is built upon are treated like garbage quite frankly. None of the aforementioned professionals, companies, nor venues could exist without the musician.
People say “Get a real job!”, however to the artist, creating art IS a real job. But after the umpteenth unreplied email, near empty gig, or rejection from a DJ or festival, it's tough to maintain a positive mind state. Many turn to drugs, alcohol, or worse to cope with the constant rejection, loneliness and disconnect.
I'm no fan of entitlement or receiving something for nothing. I certainly don't seek to promote that mentality. However, I understand that it's painful to receive nothing for something. This is the experience of many musicians.
It's not expected nor tolerated in most lines of work and I certainly think there are things that can be improved within the music industry itself. We all need to remember that the whole thing would come crashing down if musicians stopped making music.
So, go to a local gig, buy a record, buy some merch, throw some money into that busker's guitar case. Streams and YouTube views alone aren't really supporting your favourite new artists in a significant way.
Most importantly, let's remember to treat musicians like people who offer something rare and valuable to society, because we do. Let's seek to provide opportunities and support dreams, rather than crush them. Let's talk openly and exorcise the demons, rather than letting them brew in people's heads. We can all make the world a better place for those who seek to do that for us."