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How Mental Health Is Becoming an Industry Conversation

By Rick Doble

The taboo conversation of mental health is starting to appear more and more. The recent death of Avicii highlighted it as a big issue regarding the well-being of our favorite artists. Only passing at the age of 28, he left tremendous ripples of legacy through the EDM community; millions mourned his suicide.

Consequently, the incident of his loss is turning heads towards mental health awareness. Within the industry, artists are becoming less silent about mental health. Paavo Siljamäki of Above & Beyond comes as the most recent artist to break silence. He addresses some of his personal mental health struggles in an open letter titled “You Are Not Alone.”

Another recent interview with The Guardian reveals some challenges faced by big names including Moby, Steve Aoki and Borgore. Lack of sleep plays a common role in the lives of EDM artists, with some utilizing different ways to cope and adapt. As after parties are often part of the culture, sleep can take a backseat.

“I have friends who can’t sleep on planes, but I don’t know if I could tour if I couldn’t do that because that’s where I sleep,” Steve Aoki tells The Guardian. Traveling is often the only space where touring artists can get any shut-eye. Moby, who’s stopped touring altogether, says spaces like these are “toxic” because they’re artificial.

From a lack of sleep constant partying, to the pressure of carrying a team’s success, many find it difficult to manage being under the spotlight and constantly connected to fans.

Industry pressures can push artists to their limits

Data collected from the UC Berkeley’s department of demography places EDM artists in fifth place for lowest life expectancy. The Conversation reports an important thing to notice; artists in new genres are dying faster. This is in contrast to artists of older genres like blues, jazz, country, and soul music.

This may be because they members of a younger genre, and or some generally younger. Most EDM artists haven’t had a chance to live out their whole lifespan. But it can’t be that simple, as 15% of all electronic artist deaths seem to be heart related. Over 16% are accidental and 5% are due to suicide.

The consequences of losing the recommended hours of sleep (7-9 per night) can affect more than mental health. Chronic sleep deprivation, while exacerbating mental illness, can lead to cognitive impairment, increased risk of occupational injury, decreased performance, and a risk of heart failure. Olga Heijins, former manager for Laidback Luke, says in an interview with Forbes that the well-being of artists starts with managers.

“We are the most important factor in improving the circumstances, creating a healthy and safe work environment, and addressing issues when they need to be addressed,” she says. Heijins adds that the pressures of online commentary and the financial success of a whole team are additional pressures dance music artists face. While the industry is still learning how to cope with artist health, she firmly believes that it’s often on managers and the team to help them say “no.”

What do you think? What are some of the biggest stresses on artist mental health? Let us know in the comments!

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