At dBs Berlin, we have our eyes and ears everywhere (not in a creepy way, honestly). When it comes to the things that count – in this case, your mental well-being – we’re there with our camera, dictaphone, notepad and pen to bring you all the game-changing insights. Case in point: last term’s four-part dBs Dialogues mental health series, which you can also recap on YouTube.
As one of our students remarked after last month’s Music Pool Berlin x dBs Music panel talk, “I could probably write a book from everything I’ve learnt today.” So, well, we did the next best thing. With too much great information and advice to fit into one write-up, we’re back with five more things we took away from the evening – from the importance of getting organised to how we can bring about change in the music industry.
Create a good routine
“Never underestimate the power of a good routine – not only to become successful, but to safeguard your mental well-being.”
Never underestimate the power of a good routine – not only to become successful, but to safeguard your mental well-being. Whether you have the self-discipline to create your own work structure, or you need others to help you with that, it’s essential to stay deadline-motivated and take a proactive role in your career. One of Rachael’s clients, for example, took the initiative to request a weekly schedule for the whole of the coming year. She was positively surprised!
A great way to add some structure and support your lifestyle is to get a part-time job, Rachael reiterated: “It can actually be helpful to have a part-time job because you feel more committed to doing what you love in your downtime – especially if you have a job which gives you both the routine and flexibility to do these things.”
Networking is essential
“You need people that go into the world and say,’this person is really good.'”
And our panellists meant networking in both senses of the word: having a strong support network of close friends and family and striving for like-minded business connections. Although Emika described herself as sometimes feeling like she’s “on an island” having taken up so much responsibility for her business, she also stressed the importance of having a great team.
“You need advocates,” she insisted, “you need people that go into the world and say, this person is really good… People either hear about you because someone’s talked about you, or they hear your music, or they hear your music and then people talk about you. That’s how you generate some kind of buzz and some kind of opportunity and doors start to open.”
A quick fix won’t make it go away
“You don’t get dentists who get nervous and have a couple of shots of whiskey before they take someone’s tooth out.”
There’s no avoiding it: the music industry has a drug and alcohol problem. As Andy pointed out, using alcohol to cope with stress has been normalised. “You don’t get dentists who get nervous and have a couple of shots of whiskey before they take someone’s tooth out,” he said, “but we seem to think it’s okay to do that – to get drunk before you have to do your job – because it’s so ingrained in this culture…and you’re strange not to do that.”
And where quick fixes are concerned, reaching for medication isn’t always the best option either. After anxiety meds numbed her Glastonbury experience, Emika reflected, “you should never need to go and take some medication in order to go on stage.” “That’s the thing about mental health,” she continued, “it’s so easy to just be given some drugs, or you get given a list and told to go and find a therapist, [but the therapists are all booked up] so you just don’t do it and it’s much easier to just take a tablet.”
So, what about the ultimate feel-good pill: success? Unfortunately, according to Florian, the gratification of achieving your ambitions will never be a bandaid to your problems. One of his clients believed that fame would heal the wounds of his traumatised past, he told us. “Then, all of a sudden, he had all that. He was on TV, his posters and advertisements were everywhere, the CDs were out. He had all of what he always wanted, but then he realised he still feels shit. The pain is still there, nothing has changed from the inside.”
The best way to deal with mental illness, in Emika’s book, is taking the time to proactively ask questions: “practise being in touch with yourself and looking inwards and try to understand your emotional world.” And, of course, to keep creating: “It might knock you down for a bit, but if you keep writing music, it can keep you connected to yourself. I think that’s how I’ve managed; I’ve never not written music. I always had a feeling that that’s what was going to save me and keep me going.” The rest is all about communication: talking to those close to you and working to find a therapist who really listens. Remember, healing takes time, patience, and commitment.
The industry needs to evolve
“It’s a mechanical, industrialised process that takes young people and puts them through a conveyor belt.”
As Andy put it, as a musician, “whether you like it or not, you have to interface with a 70-year-old industry that hasn’t changed at all. It’s changed a little bit, but not really.” Not only does the music industry tend to cling on to old conventions and practices, but it’s geared around money-making, not mental health.
According to Andy, the music business needs to accept its duty of care towards artists, because, unfortunately, that just isn’t happening right now. “It’s a mechanical, industrialised process that takes young people and puts them through a conveyor belt,” he asserted. “Then some get sick and fall off or die, but that’s ‘cool’ because there’s plenty more coming that want to make it.”
So, what’s the solution? “I want to address the industry and see how we can stop making it so fucking unhealthy,” Andy enthused – and he’s putting his money where his mouth is. Andy is currently working to develop a non-profit healthcare package for management and labels, so that they can accept their duty of care and be better equipped to deal with struggling artists.
Keep the conversation going
“We need to make the conversation happen. Artists are talking about it, but not so much the industry.”
Granted, the music industry can be an inconsiderate old fogey, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can do now to support mental health in the music community. As Andy remarked, “we need to make the conversation happen. Artists are talking about it, but not so much the industry.” We also need to remember that everyone involved in this precarious business – not just the artists – can find it difficult to cope. “It’s not just that those people are making money off the artists – they are – but lots of us are struggling,” Andy admitted.
The biggest takeaway of the panel discussion: change is only going to happen from the ground up. So when it comes to our mental well-being, let us work together to be the cause, not the effect.
Continue the conversation right now! We chat with dBs Dialogues creator Hannah Deans about how to be bold in your expression of self-care.