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Hardee warns of biz burnout as report reveals huge stress levels

Coda's Alex Hardee has spoken of his wish that the next generation of agents "look after themselves", as a survey of promoters reveals widespread anxiety and depression

By Jon Chapple on 27 Sep 2018

Paul Crockford, Alex Hardee, keynote IFF 2018

Paul Crockford and Alex Hardee at IFF

Coda Agency partner Alex Hardee today warned of the dangers of a “24/7” working culture across much of the live music business, as a new report reveals more than three quarters of UK promoters and venue bosses may be struggling with continuous stress and anxiety.

Speaking during his keynote at the International Festival Forum in London, Hardee, a self-confessed “workaholic”, told interviewer Paul Crockford: “It’s too late for me – I’m fucked. I’m a workaholic. It’s shit ­– it’s unhealthy and I can’t get out of it.”

Hardee’s comments – a rare sober moment in an otherwise entertaining and ebullient interview, set to appear online in the coming days – come as ticket agency Skiddle releases new data which shows many UK execs are struggling with “astronomical” levels of stress on a daily basis.

“I’d like the generation that comes after me to look after themselves,” Hardee continued. “The music industry has got it completely wrong, and that [24/7 working culture] is why you see a lot of people fall over and break down. You need to have breaks, and people work better when they have breaks and they’re well rested.”

“That 24/7 working culture is why you see a lot of people fall over and break down”

A survey of more than 500 promoters, events organisers and venue owners found that 82% of industry professionals have suffered with stress, 67% said they had anxiety and 40% said they had struggled with depression. Additionally, one in ten have developed associated symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) as a “direct result of their work in music”.

Some 65% of promoters said they frequently felt an “intense and unmanageable level of pressure”, while almost half (47%) said their work in the music industry often led to a constant feeling of anxiety and sadness.

“After running a festival for a couple of years, the workload this year ended up depressing me to a level that I had suicidal thoughts and thoughts of self harm,” says one, speaking under the condition of anonymity. “A couple of months later I had panic attacks when thinking about starting the process again, and decided to go on hiatus instead.”

Another says: “It’s the loneliness and isolation that scares me. Anxiety and stress are just part and parcel of the job. It’s sad but true.”

Asked what causes them the most stress working in promoting, 45% said “no regular income” and 43% the “lack of support”, with unsociable hours and the effect the job has on relationships also scoring highly.

“The results of this survey do not make for an easy read”

Commenting on the results of the survey, Ben Sebborn, co-founder and director of Skiddle, comments: “The results of this survey do not make for an easy read, and it’s troubling to see that so many promoters are struggling with their mental health and wellbeing. Skiddle have been working alongside independent and large-scale promoters for nearly two decades and fully appreciate how difficult the job can be.

“As well as organising a series of panel sessions to discuss the issues raised in the survey, we will also be working with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) and the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) to ensure we are industry leaders in supporting promoters and offering them the assistance they need to work happily and effectively.”

BAPAM director Claire Cordeaux adds: “It’s well evidenced that mental health problems are considerably higher in the performing artist community than in the general population, and the industry is increasingly recognising the need for support. Skiddle’s survey of promoters, one of the first of its kind, is a timely reminder that it is not just performers that need help.”

See Skiddle’s findings in full in the infographic below:

Skiddle mental health infographic


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