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Report: Musicians More Likely To Struggle With Mental Health & Substance Abuse
The Music Industry Research Association (MIRA), in partnership with the Princeton University Survey Research Center and MusiCares, has released their inaugural study on musicians to better understand the unique challenges and opportunities they face working in the music industry. The findings of this survey show that, on average, musicians make less than the average American, face higher rates of discrimination and sexual harassment and disproportionally struggle with mental health and substance abuse. In light of these findings, the importance of discussing these struggles and offering outlets for support is clear.
The MIRA Survey of Musicians compared data from interviews with 1,227 musicians in the U.S. in 2018 with a larger survey of musicians and overall national data. The survey's finding highlight how some of the major challenges that the general population of individuals living in the U.S. face is amplified for those working as an artist in the music industry.
The survey found that many musicians struggle to make a living in the industry, with the median musician in the U.S. earning just $20,000 to $25,000 a year, and 61 percent of those surveyed stating that their music-related income doesn't cover their living expenses. On the positive side, those surveyed "highlighted the opportunity for artistic expression, performing, and collaborating with others as the most preferred aspects of being a musician."
In addition to many artists finding it challenging to make ends meet in following their dreams, females face higher rate rates of discrimination, and women continue to be underrepresented in the music industry. Of the 35 percent of those surveyed by MIRA who identified as female, 72 percent said they have been discriminated against because of their sex and 67 percent report that they have been sexually harassed; these figures for U.S. women overall are still high, but much lower, at 28 percent and 42 percent, respectively.
The study also revealed barriers for non-white musicians as 63 percent said they faced racial discrimination, compared to 36 percent of non-white self-employed workers nationwide.
Perhaps not unrelated to the difficult challenges that many of those surveyed reported, many musicians also struggle with mental health and substance abuse, again, at higher rates than the average population. Fifty percent reported "feeling down, depressed or hopeless" for at least several days in the last two weeks, compared with less than 25 percent of the wider adult population. Unfortunately, 11.8 percent of musicians also reported having "thoughts that you would be better off dead or hurting yourself in some way" during at least several days in the last two weeks, compared with 3.4 percent for the general population.
Additionally, the study shows over 75 percent of musicians have at least one drink per week, while that number is under 50 percent for the general adult population. Musicians are also more likely to be frequent drinkers, with 12.7 percent reporting that they drink alcohol on at least four days out of the week, versus 6.2 percent for the overall population. Those surveyed also reported higher rates of illicit drug use than the average population, with 5.4% stating that they had used one or more illegal substance in the past month, versus just 1.8% for the average population.
If you or someone you know is also dealing with any of these challenges, it is important to know that you are not alone and there are resources where you can seek help, including the services of MusiCares. More and more artists in the music industry are speaking up about their personal struggles with mental health as a way to amplify the conversation.