‘Losing Work, Losing Purpose’: Representations of Musician’s Mental Health in the Time of Covid-19

Musgrave, George. 2021. ‘Losing Work, Losing Purpose’: Representations of Musician’s Mental Health in the Time of Covid-19. In: Guy Morrow; Peter Tschmuck and Daniel Nordgård, eds. Rethinking the Music Business: Music Contexts, Rights, Data and COVID-19. Springer. [Book Section] (Forthcoming)

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Abstract or Description

Driven by a growing academic and professional interest in the subject over recent years (Eynde et.al, 2016; Vaag et.al, 2016; Berg et.al, 2018; Shorter et.al, 2018; Gross and Musgrave, 2020), discussions concerning the mental health and emotional wellbeing of musicians have been prevalent in the popular media over the course of the coronavirus pandemic. Much of the recent research into how musicians have coped emotionally during Covid-19 has been driven by the professional and charitable sector. In the United Kingdom, The Musicians Union’s Covid-19 Impact Poll, for example, revealed that 34% of musicians were considering abandoning their career (MU, 2019), and organisations such as Music Support and Help Musicians UK both reported increases in calls for support with anxiety and depression (Waite, 2020). This chapter – building on work by Brunt and Nelligan (2020) in Australia - draws on media representations of the mental health of musicians based in the United Kingdom between March 2020 and the present day, examining key themes from newspaper articles/websites, online web seminars, musicians’ own blogs and social media usage. It is suggested that musicians’ mental health challenges are broadly presented in two key ways: (1) employment related anxieties concerning loss of income, how their work was being treated vis-à-vis self-employed income support, and fears about their futures, and (2) status-based existential anxiety relating to a loss of meaning in their lives. This duality has been encapsulated as “losing work, and [losing] purpose” (Littlewood, 2020). The chapter concludes by interrogating what these anxieties tell is about how musicians and musical work are seen and understood, and what the future of professional musicianship might look like post-Covid-19.

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Institute for Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship (ICCE)


15 January 2021Accepted

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Date Deposited:

23 Feb 2021 10:42

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24 Jun 2021 10:02



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