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Is the Music Industry Unhealthy?


Is the Music Industry Unhealthy?

Marisa Kouroubacalis

Editorial by Marisa Kouroubacalis

As a musician, there is one thing I just can’t stand hearing.  I would like to address this bothersome remark.  

While I could be bitter about the typical “But what’s your real job going to be?” reaction, I can laugh to myself and move past that.  The comment that bothers me the most is along the lines of this:

“You don’t want to go into that industry.  They’re a bunch of nuts.  Look at them.  They all end up in rehab or have something wrong with them. Every single one of them is a mess.”

This type of response is also an ongoing, frequent comment that surfaces on nearly every YouTube video by Top 40 radio artists.  I am frankly quite tired of it.  

I believe that being in the music industry DOES NOT make people emotionally unstable.

I know I am in the minority when sharing this belief.  Why then do you hear lots of stories about divorce, rehab, health issues, or something else along these lines from what seems like all music artists?  

Because they are human beings.  

Music artists are not any more prone to these issues than anyone else.  The music industry does not make imperfect people.  We are are all imperfect to begin with, and artists’ imperfections are just under the spotlight.

Imagine being constantly monitored, constantly followed, and constantly photographed.  You know those three second Snapchats you send to your closest friends on a Friday night?  Would you want your employer to see those?  Or your grandmother?  Or even some of your other friends?  How about millions of complete strangers?

We have the luxury of filtering what the public sees.  This is called “self-presentation.”  For Top 40 radio artists, that three second Snapchat worthy event you send to your closest friend is more likely to end up on tomorrow’s front page of TMZ.  Imagine right now someone is creeping on you and videoing your behavior for a tabloid headline, all with the goal of catching something you’re doing wrong.  Pretty vulnerable, right?  Artists in the spotlight do not get to select which parts of themselves they share with different groups of people, because they are rawly revealed all day everyday.  Anyone can be made to look like “a mess” if they are put on display 24/7.

It is inevitable that we encounter troubles throughout the course of our lives, because we are vulnerable creatures.  Luckily, the whole world isn’t watching our every move.  Celebrities who check themselves into rehab for alcohol or drug addiction have to tell everyone of their private issues, because all of a sudden they disappear and the media “needs” to cover where they are.  If they experience a break up, consumers feel the need to “take sides” and find out what is really going on behind the scenes (i.e. Angelina and Brad, Justin and Selena, Taylor Swift and whomever).  There is no escape from the commentary and judgement.

An alternative theory is that there is a certain type of creative person it takes to be an artist and that this personality type is more susceptible to deep emotional impact.  People often make art because they feel more and feel stronger.  As a songwriter myself, I know very well that songs do not come out of thin air.  They are crafted by a wave of powerful emotion that takes over my body and produces a beautiful piece of self-expression.  Songwriting comes naturally when I feel intensely.

Another aspect to consider is that artists make a living singing about their personal thoughts and emotions.  These feelings they share are those that most people identify with, but are too afraid to express themselves.  Singer/songwriters broadcast unfiltered honesty for all to hear.  Let’s use Sam Smith for an example.  He sings the most beautiful, passionate love songs about being rejected by his former lover who broke his heart.  I truly don’t know anyone who is brave enough (or poetic enough for that matter) to express themselves that way in day-to-day life, but so many listeners can identify with what he sings.  People love songs that capture exactly what they are feeling, but they wouldn’t dare say such things themselves.  No one wants to set themselves up for judgement, especially in their most raw state.

More important than any of these theories, I would like to address the fact that there is nothing wrong with music artists facing personal issues in the first place.  People should not judge them for dealing with their difficulties.  The fact that the general public looks down on them for taking care of their struggles may even prevent others from seeking help themselves in their own times of distress.  They are courageous enough to get the help they need, which is both admirable and exemplary.  

Owning your vulnerability is so badass.