music and mental wellness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Take care of yourself and the people you love.

I won’t say that music in and of itself is the thing getting me through California’s lockdown, but it is getting me out of bed some days and easing me back to sleep on others. It’s helping me wash the dishes, fold my clothes, and cook myself breakfast. It’s taking me back to the, now distant, feeling of traveling in airplanes, trains, buses. It’s reminding me of the people I love and have loved, and hinting at the people I will love someday too. Music is easing me out of the past, propelling me through the present, and hinting at the future. 

In short, music has been an integral part of my daily routine and something that allows me to feel internally well when everything else feels decidedly unwell. I know I’m not the only one turning to music right now. One friend said he’s been listening to twelve hours of music a day. Another asked that we send each other our answers to the 30 day song challenge that’s been circulating Instagram as a way to keep up with each other on a daily basis. Of course, music isn’t just beneficial within the context of COVID-19. Studies show that music has a number of cognitive benefits, including decreasing anxiety, uplifting mood, and improving memory. In addition, it has the social benefit of helping us relate to one another across the farthest distances. It makes sense that music has become a cornerstone of coping during the global pandemic we are confronting each day. 

The artists behind the music we love are well aware of their music’s ability to comfort us. Many are streaming music from their living rooms and garages for large and small scale events. Together At Home brought many high profile, mainstream artists together to support charity. Meanwhile, on the DIY scene, bands have been going live on Instagram, Youtube, and Twitch since the early days of the lockdown. They’re streaming—not for money—but for the sake of putting something out there for people to enjoy, relate to, and connect with. They are essentially donating their time for the well-being of their friends, family, and fans. 

However, even while these live-streams bring joy to audiences and allow artists to connect with the people who love their art, it’s hard to ignore the fact that many bands are struggling financially right now. The music industry is a competitive scene in general, but with the added difficulties of closed venues and country-wide restrictions of gatherings, the ability of bands to make money from touring or playing shows has come to halt. One of the main streams of profit for many artists has been completely cut off. The threat of COVID-19 is not simply limited to the current restrictions either. The future of independent music venues is increasingly uncertain with hundreds teetering on the edge of bankruptcy across the country. 

As we rely on music more than ever to keep us sane and feel as though our lives really are a continuation of the life we had a few months ago, it is important to recognize the work of musicians. They are dealing with—not only the same burdens as those of us confined within our homes or without a steady stream of income—but with creative pressures as well that are only increased by removal from the outside world. Most people would agree that we need art and music to live. If that wasn’t clear before, it is now. But that also means we need artists. We need to support our artists, we need to make sure they have food to eat, space to work, and time to create. Particularly for the independent scene, it is necessary for fans to buy merchandise, donate if they can to their local venues, and spread the word about their favorite artists through word of mouth and social media. 

Music supports us. Let’s support music. 

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