This week is Neurodiversity Celebration Week, a worldwide initiative that challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences.
As part of our Success Stories section, we interviewed our beneficiary Jon Hart, who talks about what does it mean to be a neurodivergent musician and how the Fund helped him.
Q. How did your career start?
Although I have been playing instruments since the age of five, my career really took off after I completed university. Like many others, I was unsure about my next steps after graduation. I started touring with bands and also began offering guitar tuition, which allowed me to work alongside my original act which was financially stable. After establishing this aspect of my career, I diversified and started a wedding music business that became a multi-award-winning venture and provided the variety I needed for my neurodivergent brain.
However, as with many neurodivergent individuals, running a business and maintaining consistency can be challenging, especially when dopamine levels deplete. In 2017, I had a setback with my wedding business due to some bad advice and human error. As a result, I lost half of my business overnight. This is when I turned to build evergreen assets online, such as music sales, affiliate marketing, setting up an acoustic guitar academy, crowdfunding, and more.
I used to perform as a rock and pop singer-songwriter, but later shifted to become a fingerstyle singer-songwriter. Since 2015, I have released three EPs and five albums. I have also set up three UK tours with three world-class fingerstyle guitarists and performed at prestigious guitar festivals.
Q. When were you diagnosed as neurodivergent?
I became aware and accepting of my neurodivergent traits only recently, after experiencing some difficult years due to COVID-19 and mental health issues. After a psychiatric evaluation, I was suggested to have ADHD/ASD, which triggered an identity crisis. I was diagnosed with dyslexia in 2003 during my university years, as I struggled with the academic demands and felt that I lacked creativity. However, I didn’t explore this further at the time, as I was focused on building a music career. Later, after settling into family life and my music career, I started studying neurodiversity in my free time through books, videos, podcasts, etc. I am currently waiting for my official ADHD and ASD assessments, but due to the backlog in the NHS caused by COVID-19, the waiting period is four years. I am waiting for the “Right to Choose” service to mediate between the NHS and private health services, which could reduce the waiting time to 6-12 months.
Q. What does it mean to be a neurodivergent musician?
Neurodivergent musicians have brains that are wired differently from what is considered “neurotypical.” This can include conditions such as ADHD, ASD, dyslexia, Tourette’s syndrome, bipolar disorder, and other forms of neurodivergence. Being neurodivergent can result in unique expressions in music, as a musician may approach learning, playing, and composing music in unconventional ways. They may also perceive sound differently, influencing their playing style and instrument preferences. However, being neurodivergent can also present challenges for musicians, such as difficulties with organization, time management, sensory overload, and social interactions. With the right support and guidance, neurodivergent musicians can overcome these challenges and make valuable contributions to the music industry. This support can come in many forms, including being part of a neurodivergent community and seeking therapy. Overall, being a neurodivergent musician is an important and valuable aspect of diversity in the music industry, bringing new and innovative ideas to the table.
Q. How did you hear about the PRS Members’ Fund?
I found the PRS Members’ Fund through their website and sent an email to enquire.
Q. When did you first approach the Fund?
I contacted the PRS Fund in January 2022 after experiencing a mental health crisis in December 2021. With my doctor’s approval, I reached out to the Fund for support and they promptly provided me with a form to begin the process. Thanks to their swift action, the Fund was able to assist me in no time.
Q. How has the Fund helped you and in what way did it change/improve your life?
As a self-employed musician, my mental and physical well-being is crucial for my career. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how our music industry and livelihoods could come to a standstill overnight. However, long-term mental and physical health issues can have severe and lasting effects on our careers. The support I received from PRS Members’ Fund was a lifeline for myself and my family during a challenging time of debt and financial hardship. While dealing with my recovery, juggling parental duties, and managing finances, I was unable to work on my music career. The Fund’s support allowed me to take a break, focus on my well-being, and avoid further aggravation or relapses.
Q. How are things different now?
Although I had a setback last July, I have since been on a path to recovery. Through my journey of music and neurodiversity exploration, I discovered my true identity and am now able to be my authentic self. I am currently working on a new neurodivergent music album and podcast, planning a tour, and considering higher education. My mission is to help my fellow musicians avoid crises and the pitfalls that I encountered by sharing my insights, stories, and recommendations. Struggling with mental health is common among musicians, and neurodivergence often goes undiagnosed. Building external things for my music career was satisfying, but I realized that I was attempting to fill an internal void that I had carried my whole life. Finding internal balance has allowed me to manifest external progress, and I am no longer in a rush to do anything unless it feels right and the timing is appropriate.
Q. Provide something short and inspirational to fellow PRS members who may need help. (Like there’s support and resources available as the services we offer at the Fund)?
If you suspect that you may be neurodivergent, seek out professional help and resources. NHS assessments for ADHD and ASD currently have a four-year wait, and private assessments can be prohibitively expensive, especially for independent musicians struggling with debt. Some companies offer “Right to Choose” services that can shorten the wait time from four years to one year with permission from your GP. From my personal experience, I recommend that neurodivergent musicians simplify their approach, seek help in all areas of life, and outsource tasks that are not their strengths. Education in areas such as finances, marketing, and sales can be empowering and help avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary costs. Ultimately, managing a music career as a neurodivergent individual requires a less-is-more approach. While challenging, simplifying and streamlining your approach can lead to greater success and fulfilment.
You can find out more about Jon Hart at jonhartmusic.com.