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17.09.2020, Words by Billy Ward

'Can Music Make You Sick?' asks why musicians are three times more likely to have anxiety or depression

The book also highlights key challenges faced by women musicians who experience inequality in the industry

Citing the largest ever study into mental health in the music industry, new book Can Music Make You Sick?: Measuring The Price of Musical Ambition explores why music-makers are three times more likely to experience mental health issues than the general public.

The book explores the lived experiences of musicians in the modern-day industry, using empirical research and interviews to challenge myths and demonstrate how the industry’s often unstable working conditions are perfect for fostering or even amplifying mental health struggles in music creators.

Written over four years by industry veteran turned academic Sally Anne Gross and musician and lecturer George Musgrave, the pair conducted a wide-ranging study of over 2000 music-makers to discover their experiences and working conditions. The findings showed that 71.1% of respondents reported high rates of anxiety and 68.5% reported depression.

Through listening to how musicians understand and experience their working lives, the book turns on its head the notion that musicians are themselves prone to mental health problems, establishing that it may be the actual pursuit of a career in music that undermines and destabilises a musician’s wellbeing.

The book also highlights the key challenges faced by women musicians who are experiencing inequality of access to a career and unfair treatment such as discrimination and sexual harassment. Last month, it was revealed that British female artists are severely underrepresented on UK radio, showing that there’s still much work to be done before there is a level playing field in the music business.

Raising difficult questions about what the industry needs to do to make a transformative change, Gross and Musgrave ask: “Are we churning out too many musicians for the industry to manage?”.

Published by University Of Westminster Press, Can Music Make You Sick? releases on 29 September.

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