written by Maurice Cardinal …
It is a MYTH that suicides increase at Christmas.
The truth is, SUICIDES SPIKE ON NEW YEAR’S DAY when the Christmas hangover begins and credit card charges loom.
Artists suffer under a double-weight respective of our personalities. It is tragic, but artists end their own lives at a higher rate than most sectors of society. This article from Psychology Today addresses some of the reasons.
As a tour manager on the arena circuit, I’ve helped artists several times when stress grows so overwhelming that they drug and drink themselves into a slow death spiral, or fantasize about falling off a tall building. Over the years I discovered that “stepping off” is a looping dream for many artists. I wrote a song about it in the nineties that still rings true.
While on tour quite a few years ago, at about four in the morning I was startled-awake by my jangling hotel room phone. I picked up and heard a familiar voice barely whisper that I needed to come immediately to the caller’s room. I asked why and he said just come now, and hung up. Artists, I thought. Fuck. I dragged myself out of bed and pulled on a shirt and pants, no shoes though and rushed up to the eighth floor where I found his door slightly ajar. I tapped lightly, waited for a response, heard nothing so I gently pushed the door open to see my friend, a very sensitive musical soul, more so than most, standing on a chair with a half empty bottle of rum in his hand. He was weeping, drunk, and wobbling beside a very large, wide-open window, eighty feet in the air.
He saw me and murmur-slurred, “Heh, I’ve been staring at the gorgeous stained-glass ceiling way down there covering the hotel lobby. It’s hypnotic. Can you imagine what people would think if a body came crashing through it.”
I dry-swallowed hard, and always the pragmatist immediately thought that thankfully it’s four in the morning and the lobby is empty. I kept my distance. As I edged toward the window pretending to look, he waved me back. I spent the next half-hour distracting him so I could move closer.
It took a while to get him off the chair. I baited him into passing the bottle to me so I could have a last worldly drink with him. When he did I grabbed his arm and wrenched him off the chair. He was a tall and almost dead-weight-drunk drink of water. I led him by the arm and waist to the couch, where, for the next hour he sobbed in relief. I stayed with him for another hour until he had fully calmed down and fell asleep. Before he nodded out, I promised that I would help him resign later that day. He said he couldn’t do it alone.
In retrospect it took years for me to appreciate the cumulative toll that situations like this also had on me. At the time though, it seemed all in due course as I jumped from city to city around the world.
When I told the owner of the company what happened, and that the artist was going to leave the road after this tour and go home permanently to his family, the owner became enraged and threatened to cancel my contract. I was nonplussed, but firm in my decision that I wanted this artist safe at home where his family could support him. I also wanted him off my tour for the sake of the entourage and act. The owner was angry for personal reasons, but also because we’d have to train someone to fill the empty space. Some days you can’t fucking win. After that surprising response I felt like resigning too, but didn’t, and instead buried my frustration–I eventually wrote a manuscript about life on the road–yet to be published. Maybe when I retire.
I’ve managed a few similar suicide incidents where I had to first calm, and then monitor an artist around the clock, which means staying with them until they are back in control, or safe at home or hospital. A few times I’ve flown in family or staff to assist. It’s harder than you might imagine to get an emotionally distraught person on a commercial international flight. Creativity comes in many forms.
Most artists are sensitive.
Of course … it’s what we do.
Creativity however can make
an artist a bit too vulnerable.
I kept a daily tour diary for a decade, here’s an excerpt; “… over the course of time I became the de facto tour pseudo psychologist who was called upon at all hours of the day and night to deal with entourage members who suffered violent alcoholic rages, drug induced insanity, and good old, every day mental breakdowns. I dealt with road dogs who also had serious chronic illnesses and addictions from gambling to sex and sometimes both, and others who simply, but desperately missed their families and sometimes threatened suicide at four in the morning. Was I qualified to talk an artist off of a ledge? Not at all, but I was a quick study and empathetic to everyone’s maladies, big or small. I knew my team of fifty or so artists and crew intimately, and I knew many of their friends and families. I also knew all of the obsessed fans by name, and there were hundreds, some so unpredictable we had to have them arrested as stalkers. Some were incarcerated for long periods. It’s crazy when you think it was because of art.
I was always first on the scene to fix the mess and mitigate scandal.“
Just as a point of reference; Music affects a listener’s brain much differently than someone viewing a painting, photograph, or sculpture.
Music is channeled into our amygdala and straight through to our unconscious. It floods parts of our brain in serotonin and dopamine.
Visual art reminds us of a scene, while music creates it. Big difference.”
Which brings us full circle to today, a few days from 2022 in a year that is unprecedented for stress as we lumber through a pandemic that won’t quit.
Many are growing uneasy, artists especially, and especially when inexperienced artists hear about all the other artists supposedly striking it NFT-rich while they continue to struggle. The promise made by tech sales geeks shilling NFTs, is that everyone is a winner and WAGMI. It’s confusing.
Not as many artists as you think are doing as well as you think, so don’t beat yourself up. The big winners are experienced artists who have publicity chops. They know how to attract attention. Luckily, it’s a learnable skill.
We are also rounding the final corner of the early adopter phase, a volatile time.
The truth is, NFT is a technological marvel, and it will reinvent the art industry, but it isn’t a magic bean.
NFT is just another tool to help us certify, distribute, sell, and trade art.
It’s not much more, at least not yet, although community is starting to gel.
Unfortunately, Geek Gods painted a misleading picture based on “nerd theory”, which is what the concept of NFT community is at this point–still mostly theory. I support the NFT idea so I’m not knocking it, but at this current stage it’s still mostly an ideology awaiting fruition. It’s attached to a wispy promise that NFT will transform anyone who wants to be an artist into a money-making machine that creates great art and delivers hugs.
OK. Hugs are good, but can NFT do all that? Well yes, we’ve all seen it, but it can’t do it automatically like a self-driving Musk Mobile.
The other attributes an artist requires, like technical skill, commitment, and marketing and promotion chops, also have to be managed and leveraged.
There is no free lunch or quick fix, as so wontly promoted by manipulative and very slick self-named “shitposters”.
I truly hope it doesn’t happen, but if an artist dies by their own hand this New Year’s Day, I’m faulting corporate sales geeks who pretend to be NFT art collectors and trusted advisors. They mercilessly target inexperienced and pandemic desperate artists struggling to survive–artists who need help the most.
Here’s a prime example of an artist’s frustration … thanks Ryan
I love Artists-Supporting-Artists, and an art buying-and-selling community that is a self-perpetuating DAO. Unfortunately, we’re not quite there yet. Hopefully soon, but it could still be years away.
I also understand, appreciate, and embrace token economics and gamification, but these concepts have little to do with art, at least of the fine kind. I also REALLY LOVE secondary sales royalties, and also that an NFT art collector can now share in the revenue after investing in an artist.
The missing NFT link though is an entity in a facilitation position, ideally through a DAO, that has the resources to create a standardized NFT training program and public education campaign. Education is a big deal because it tempers expectations and helps set realistic goals, which impacts depression.
As it is, inexperienced artists are so artificially hyped and excited that they bounce around like ping-pong balls desperate to make even one NFT sale. As always, selling art is harder than creating it, especially when you consider how much fun it is to create art.
Thankfully, promoting and marketing art is a learnable skill, plus you can always ask a pro for help. So please, don’t be hard on yourself. Success is possible with a plan, and also if you collaborate.
If you have feelings of loneliness or helplessness, please reach out to a professional for emotional support.
Friends and family, including NFT family are great for temporary relief, but if you have recurring thoughts of harming yourself, call someone local now and tell them your story. Trained therapists at Crisis Prevention Centers around the world will listen, and you will be here tomorrow to create more wonderful art and share it with everyone. Have faith in yourself.
You need to know first though, that it is not you. Depression is not your fault.
We’ve all been thrust into a challenging and sometimes frustrating new world that we have to learn to manage in a way that makes us fulfilled and happy.
Reach out to a pro who is trained to help you emotionally. Share this article too with an artist whom you think might need a little support today.
We are close to reinventing the art industry, but not quite there yet.
In the meantime, celebrate what you have, and keep creating.
Happy New Year in 2022!
A toast to your health and happiness.