Mental Health In The Music Industry

Fiona McGugan, general manager of the Music Manager’s Forum, reports on the increasingly vital role of the emotionally responsible manager in the industry.

Life in the music industry is likely to take its toll on a person regardless of mental vulnerability. Being thrust into the spotlight can be difficult enough – never mind the added pressures of completing a busy promo circuit or travelling the world on a non-stop tour – but it can also expose or create much deeper problems.

During Mental Health Awareness Week this year, from 16 to 22 May, the Mental Health Foundation has placed a special focus on relationships. “We believe we urgently need a greater focus on the quality of our relationships,” says the charity. “We need to understand just how fundamental relationships are to our health and wellbeing. We cannot flourish as individuals and communities without them. They are as vital as better-established lifestyle factors, such as eating well, exercising more and stopping smoking.”

In the music industry, there should arguably be no greater working relationship than that between an artist and their manager. Far from the cliche of a cigar-chomping penny counter, a good modern music manager will protect their client’s emotional, mental and physical state just as passionately as their business interests. It’s a role that can make all the difference for artists who may be struggling with the demands of stardom, along with any other mental health challenges they harbour.

“If there’s one thing that’s for sure, it’s that success and adulation never made any human being any more normal,” says Marc Marot, a former UK record label boss and chairman of Crown Talent Management, which has the likes of Ella Henderson, Becky Hill and Jay McGuiness on its music roster. “What we’re trying to do for our artists on a daily basis is make them more extraordinary. So we’re setting people up to have a different way of thinking to the rest of humanity. Then we wonder why they think differently!”

Recently, there has been an increased awareness of mental health in the creative industries. The stigma surrounding mental illness appears to be fading, if slightly: last year, prominent music stars such as Pete Doherty and Florence Welch talked openly about their battles with anxiety and depression. Meanwhile, the death of Amy Winehouse in 2011 has forced more discussion around mental health, addiction and adequate care across the music industry.

Words by Fiona McGugan

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