The idea that DJs and electronic artists may suffer mental health difficulties as a result of their work is an idea that should, to any critical thinker, be obvious. Nocturnal hours, unhealthy touring schedules, fickle fans, job insecurity, a culture of drink and drugs… not to mention the many solitary hours in front of a computer. The inherent risks to well being are clear.
So why is it only so recently that artists and others in the industry have begun to really speak about this?
In order to try to understand better the different, overlapping factors that can lead to problems, and also what we can do to help, read more here -> first ever academic study into the relationship between music and mental healt for the UK’s leading music charity Help Musicians.
I’ve been on stage and felt in a really, really bad, dark place. I thought, s**t, everyone’s having a great time and I’ve been up for quite a few hours and I’m thinking, why are they jumping around? Can’t they see through it all?”
For DJs and producers nowadays, social media is an inescapable part of the job: and it’s not all negative. Social media can connect you with fans; launch your career; market you to bookers, connect you with labels, and help you shape a brand online. Social media is a powerful democratising force that helps DJs—especially those outside the London bubble—to break out. But there’s also a darker side.
The relentlessness of the life of a touring DJ — the drugs, the late nights, the isolation, the constant travel. Commonly linked to poor mental health. But when we consider the factors that can lead to depression and anxiety, we don’t often think about social media — despite the fact that today’s DJs are required to be online more than ever. Even Facebook has acknowledged that excessive use of social media poses a mental health risk. But when you’re a public figure, the negative mental health aspects can be compounded.
Comparing yourself to other artists can be especially damaging. “You can end up comparing yourself to other people all the time,”. “Say you see someone who’s on a similar level to yourself professionally but has way more followers. There’s always a part of your brain that’s going, why?” Remembering that social media is 90% illusion helps. “Say you see a picture of someone in a studio,”. “They could have taken that picture before, put it up online, and they might be at home watching Netflix.” Keeping a sense of perspective what’s real, and what’s just perception is important.
And social media is especially damaging for those on the receiving end of online trolling: be it homophobia, body shaming, or misogyny. Women and minority groups within the industry are most likely to cop abuse within dance music, as they are generally online. And as everyone’s plugged into social media 24/7, DJs invariably see all the shitty stuff that’s being said about them—or even sent to them directly.
Everyone in the dance music community has felt the impact of social isolation and a global shutdown.
The current world isn’t easy for dance music
Staring down a reality of equivocal isolation, contagion, and financial bewilderment, life on the dance floor now feels like a distant memory for most. Venues are all closed, record stores have shut their shops, and many artists are being stripped of their main source of income. The electronic music community has been left in the dark by the unforgiving nature of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dance music is a movement constructed on building blocks of community, equality, and freedom of expression. Without fulfilling these core values in the traditional formats, many of us feel lost, alone, and more anxious than ever before. In the wake of coronavirus, the mental wellbeing of the music industry is once again a hot topic of discussion.
As a DJ, producer, and journalist, my existing anxiety and OCD conditions can provide me with hurdles on the best of days. With the coronavirus constant now adding further complexity to my mental equation, my day-to-day worries have somewhat heightened. From the amount of time I spend washing my hands, to concerns over what surfaces I can and can’t touch to avoid lengthy repetition, the cycle can be endless.
Being concerned with the threat of COVID-19 is understandable, but for many in the industry with mental health troubles, the constant news about the virus can feel relentless.
“The worry alone has become exhausting, trying to process information as it comes and changes, trying to evaluate what to believe, trying not to get carried away in the panic that surrounds us,”
“I’ve struggled with anxiety quite a bit and hated how I would allow it to disconnect me from the present. But anxiety is not a separate entity, it’s something I’ve learned to work with and the silver lining here is that such intense circumstances of panic really force you to work with your thoughts and fears in a new way.”