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Losing Work, Losing Purpose: Representations of Musicians’ Mental Health in the Time of COVID-19

A Book Chapter by George Musgrave, published by Springer

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.

Photo by Ismael Paramo on Unsplash

George Musgrave


Dr. George Musgrave studies the psychological experiences and working conditions of creative careers, with a current focus on mental health and wellbeing in the music industry. He co-led a major research project entitled 'Can Music Make You Sick?' alongside Sally Anne Gross on mental health and the music industry exploring the links between anxiety/depression and precarious work, the book of which was an Amazon Number 1 Best Seller in the Sociology of Work. He has also done work on ethical decision-making by music managers and wellbeing in the gig economy.


19 September 2022
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CAMRI | Losing Work, Losing Purpose: Representations of Musicians’ Mental Health in the Time of COVID-19 - CAMRI
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