This chapter has been published in Rethinking The Music Business, part of the Music Business Research series.
Driven by a growing academic and professional interest in the subject over recent years, discussions concerning the mental health and emotional wellbeing of musicians have been prevalent in 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 sectors. This chapter—building on work by Brunt and Nelligan (Media International Australia 178:42-46, 2021)—draws on media representations of the mental health of musicians based in the United Kingdom over the first year of the pandemic between March 2020 and March 2021, examining key themes from newspaper articles/websites, online web seminars, musicians’ own blogs and social media. It suggests that musicians’ mental health challenges were 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, HuffPost UK, 2020). The chapter concludes by interrogating what these anxieties tell us about how musicians and musical work are seen and understood.