The music industry is a league behind sports in its attitudes to injuries
Whilst in the corporate world it is not uncommon to be at the height of career success in one’s forties and to have career breaks and changes, the trajectory in the music industry is altogether different. The expectation is to have a linear career, which for some, starts before the age of 10, and should be without mistakes, breaks or changes. Particularly in the classical music world, the child prodigies are revered and the young, up-and-coming artists are supported and offered both financial and professional opportunities. Whilst this of course can be excellent, there can only be so many who make it within the conventional and narrow time frame of 'the younger the better’ and this does not suit everyone’s personality. What about those of us who have had unconventional career paths? Is it really too late when you have turned 30 to develop a sustainable performing career?
I was one of those who started music at a young age. I was home schooled so that I could focus on the cello and by age 16 gained my ARCM diploma, with honours, from the Royal College of Music in London. I was on the conventional path to musical success when a shoulder injury forced me to stop playing. After refusing to undergo surgery I thought my music career was over. Seven years later – after having been through depression, the selling of my beloved cello, and retraining – I found a treatment from the world of sports medicine that helped heal my shoulder and gave me hope to pick up where I left off. It is through my experience, from injury to career re-launch that I began to notice the gaps and stigmas in the industry.
Firstly, and potentially most critically; injury. Musicians are just as dependent upon their bodies for their livelihood as athletes. Yet the music industry is far behind the sports medicine field in terms of support and delivering appropriate treatment. The injury that left me unable to play my cello is not uncommon amongst performing musicians. The intense schedule of a freelance musician exposes the body to repetitive strain injuries similar to athletes.
Whereas athletes who have injuries are treated and then expected to rise once again to the top of their game once healed, a previously injured musician is often considered unreliable physically, and doubt remains in the mind of industry leaders. Why is injury accepted, treated and supported in the sports world, yet so shaming and unacceptable in the music world?
When I began playing again, and decided to re-launch my career, I noticed another gap – the lack of support for rebuilding a performing career. In my case, physical injury halted my career – for others it might be personal circumstances. Whatever the reason, I would love to see the profession adopt a little more openness about unconventional career paths. A traumatic experience shapes your life, my musical message has deepened as a result of it. With the turmoil our industry is in, perhaps we are ready to explore new ways of discovering talent…
This is an issue not only in music, but in the rest of the arts as well. It is very difficult to gain the momentum in a chosen artistic field after the age of 30. Somehow we are left to our own devices to learn and carry out the career building tasks with no support, either financial or artistic.
Wouldn’t it be great if organizations such as the Prince’s Trust supported artistic initiatives at any age? What if music deals were available to the over 30s?