Help Musicians creates new mental health charity
Help Musicians has created a new single-focus charity, Music Minds Matter, to support the mental health of all who work in music across the UK.
Earlier this week, BRIT Award-winning singer Arlo Parks became the latest artist to pull tour dates due to mental health concerns, following similar cancellations from Shawn Mendes, Sam Fender, Russ, Wet Leg and Disclosure.
Music Minds Matter’s first board of trustees will provide insight and focus to drive awareness and help improve access to necessary mental health support. Association For Electronic Music (AFEM) CEO Silvia Montello has been announced as the new charity’s first chair.
“Having worked in music my entire career, I have sadly seen and experienced first-hand the devastating impact on the mental health of too many great colleagues, friends and artists,” says Montello. “Music brings such joy to so many people; we need to ensure that no-one involved in creating and sharing it across the music-loving community is left to suffer the effects of stressful, unhealthy and often precarious livelihoods, and is able to share in that joy and to thrive in their own daily endeavours.”
The new board will be made up of: Gareth Mellor (FUGA); Juliette Edwards (PPL); Maria Wray (UTA); Melanie Johnson (Utopia Music); Paul Firth (Amazon Music) and Reni Adadevoh (Warner Music International). Jim Benner, one of Help Musicians existing trustees will also serve on the board.
“We have seen the need for mental health support continue to grow year-on-year”
Music Minds Matter was established in 2017 as a 24/7 mental health support line for all who work in music across the UK, and has since evolved to encompass peer support groups, self-care sessions and a music-focused mental health guidance website, Music Minds Matter Explore.
“Since Music Minds Matter launched in 2017, we have seen the need for mental health support continue to grow year-on-year,” says Help Musicians CEO James Ainscough. “Musicians and those who work in music have been through an incredibly difficult time during the pandemic. And, sadly, coming out the other side is proving just as challenging, if not more. So the time is right to set up Music Minds Matter as a single-focus charity.
“With the full backing of the Help Musicians team and resources, the Music Minds Matter board will have the freedom to drive forward our work on mental health, so we can reach more of those who need our support, and build vital partnership right across the music industry. Silvia and the new board of trustees bring the wealth of knowledge, understanding and passion needed to guide Music Minds Matter in this new and exciting phase and I look forward to working with them.”
Music Minds Matter will bring together significant influencers within the music industry at Abbey Road Studio 2 on 10 October for World Mental Health Day to lead a discussion about best practice in mental health support and how to drive positive change.
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Arlo Parks latest act to cancel shows over mental health
“I find myself now in a very dark place, exhausted and dangerously low,” reads a statement posted on Parks’ social media accounts.
The British singer-songwriter began the North American leg of her ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ tour at the start of this month, but said that her mental health has “deteriorated to a debilitating place” and left her “burnt out”.
Parks has subsequently cancelled eight dates scheduled from 14 to 24 September but has promised to resume the tour next week starting with her 26 September date at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon.
“I pushed myself unhealthily, further and harder than I should’ve”
From there, the singer is slated to deliver six more shows and conclude the tour on 12 October. Read Parks’ full statement below.
“I’ve been on the road on and off for the last 18 months, filling every spare second in between and working myself to the bone. It was exciting and I was eager to grind and show everyone what I was capable of, how grateful I was to be where I am today. The people around me started to get worried but I was anxious to deliver and afraid to disappoint my fans and myself.”
“I pushed myself unhealthily, further and harder than I should’ve. I find myself now in a very dark place, exhausted and dangerously low – it’s painful to admit that my mental health has deteriorated to a debilitating place, that I’m not okay, that I’m a human being with limits.
“With that in mind I’m having to cancel the shows from Boston to Salt Lake City and recommence the tour in Portland. I don’t take decisions like this lightly but I am broken and I really need to step out, go home and take care of myself. I will do everything I can to make this up to you – for now you can get refunds at your point of purchase.
I’m forever thankful to everyone who continues to show up for me, what a dream to have fans like you guys – I’ll be back. Love AP.”
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Sam Fender cancels US dates, citing mental health
British singer-songwriter Sam Fender has cancelled his upcoming US tour dates, citing mental health concerns.
The 28-year-old from Newcastle announced that he is “taking some time off the road” to look after his mental health, after admitting that he was “burnt out” from touring.
The news comes soon after Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Shawn Mendes cancelled the remaining dates on Wonder: The World Tour to focus on his wellbeing.
Fender’s scrapped US dates include three remaining headline shows in the US, support slots with Florence and the Machine, and a performance at Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas.
“It seems completely hypocritical of me to advocate discussion on mental health and write songs about it if I don’t take the time to look after my own mental health,” reads a statement on Fender’s social media channels.
“It’s impossible to do this work on myself while on the road”
“I’ve neglected myself for over a year now and haven’t dealt with things that have deeply affected me. It’s impossible to do this work on myself while on the road, and it’s exhausting feigning happiness and wellness for the sake of business. My friends and colleagues have been worried about me for a while and it’s not going to get better unless I take the time to do so.”
Apologising to fans, Fender has also cancelled a number of rescheduled UK record store dates. However, the singer-songwriter said that he is “super excited” for his Australia dates in November and “everything to come in 2023″.
Earlier this month, Fender announced a 2023 headline show at St James’ Park in his hometown of Newcastle. He will become the first Geordie to top the bill at Newcastle United Football Club’s ground.
Fender’s agent Paul Wilson spoke to IQ earlier this year about the artist’s long-term ambition to perform at St. James’ Park, among other things.
— Sam Fender (@samfendermusic) September 12, 2022
Intimate Ed Sheeran show to launch charity series
Ed Sheeran is to kick off the newly created Wellstock x For One Night Only charity event series with a one-off show at London’s 900-cap Union Chapel.
Sheeran will perform an acoustic set at the venue on Tuesday 11 October, promoted by Kilimanjaro Live.
The event is being held in support of confidential mental health text support service Shout, which is powered by Mental Health Innovations – a digital mental health charity founded with the support of The Royal Foundation of The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge.
No tickets will be on sale for the Sheeran concert or other future For One Night Only events, with the fundraising initiative designed to create “extraordinary experiences that money cannot buy”. A total of 300 pairs of tickets will be available via charity prize draw.
Entrants are asked to make a voluntary donation of £10 to the For One Night Only Fund that will be donated to Shout. All those who donate but are unsuccessful in securing a ticket will receive an exclusive video from the night.
“The conversation around mental health is such an important one”
“I am excited to announce that I have teamed up with For One Night Only for this very special one-off concert,” says Sheeran. “It’s the first in a series of events they’ll be creating and will be a brilliant night in an intimate and special venue.
“The conversation around mental health is such an important one. We all have mental health, we all need to talk about it and there is also a need to have places to go when we are struggling. You have the chance of joining me in London by entering the charity prize draw at foronenightonly.org and you can support Shout by making a £10 donation.”
For One Night Only has been created by Emmy-award winning content creator Harder Than You Think (HTYT). The original concept for the event has been developed by Kevin Cahill, Sport Relief founder and honorary life president of Comic Relief, and Kim Chappell from Chappell Productions.
“The aims are to use events to bring mental health awareness to the fore whilst also looking at fundraising”
The first For One Night Only event has been developed in collaboration with Wellstock, an initiative created by singer Will Young which is aiming to raise awareness and funds for a variety of mental health charities.
“Wellstock has been an idea of mine for a long time,” says Young. “The aims are to use events to bring mental health awareness to the fore whilst also looking at fundraising and with an overview of acceptance, validation and blowing away the shame that can attach itself to feeling anything other than happiness.
“We are thrilled to align with the charity Shout and For One Night Only to create our first unique event with Ed Sheeran with more to come next year. Ed’s event is going to be super special with more news to come very soon.”
Shawn Mendes cancels remainder of Wonder world tour
Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Shawn Mendes has cancelled the remaining dates on Wonder: The World Tour to focus on his wellbeing.
The tour was slated to visit a total 77 arenas, with Dermont Kennedy and Tate McRae supporting the North American dates and King Princess joining Mendes in Europe.
The Canadian pop star had so far played seven of the 87 shows he had scheduled across the US and Europe.
In a statement posted on his social media channels, 23-year-old Mendes said: “I started this tour excited to finally get back to playing live after a long break due to the pandemic, but the reality is I was not at all ready for how difficult touring would be after this time away.
“After speaking with my team and working with an incredible group of health professionals, it has become more clear that I need to take the time I’ve never taken personally, to ground myself and come back stronger.
“I need to take the time I’ve never taken personally, to ground myself and come back stronger”
“It breaks my heart to tell you this but I promise I will be back as soon as I’ve taken the right time to heal.”
He added that he hoped to reschedule the shows in the future and thanked fans for their support, telling them that cancelling the shows did not mean he would stop making music.
The announcement comes after the singer announced earlier this month he was cancelling some dates of the tour in order to “heal and take care of myself and my mental health”.
Mendes explained at the time that after “a few years off the road” due to the Covid pandemic, he felt “ready to dive back in”, but said his decision had ultimately proved to be “premature”.
The Canadian pop star is represented by Nick Matthews at Paradigm in Europe and Matt Galle at CAA for the rest of the world.
Oz study findings ‘wake up call’ for live business
The Australian live business has been warned the findings of a workforce survey should serve as a wake-up call to the state of mental health in the sector.
Participants in the first Mental Health and Wellbeing in Music and Live Performing Arts study included musicians, songwriters, production crew, managers and producers, with 66% of those surveyed reporting high-to-very high levels of psychological distress – four times greater than the general population.
Conducted this past March and April by the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne, in conjunction with music charity Support Act, the study has identified the need for further improvements in the creative industries.
“Participants in this research identified a need for further financial and mental health support for people working in music”
“Participants in this research identified a need for further financial and mental health support for people working in music and live performing arts, as well as a need for broader change within the sector and government support to enable this,” says research fellow at the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne, Dr Aurora Elmes.
“People want to see action towards improved working conditions and work environments that are safe for everyone’s mental and physical health.”
Covid-19 was a common factor in the results, with more than 47% of respondents losing their jobs as a result and almost two-thirds saying the pandemic had impacted their mental health. In addition, 61% said it had affected their feeling of being part of an industry community, and 56% noted increased feelings of loneliness or social isolation.
Dr Elmes adds that the research indicates that people in music and live performing arts continue to face job insecurity and work environments that can be unsafe for physical or mental health.
“It reveals the ongoing effects of added stressors arising from the Covid-19 pandemic”
“On top of existing issues with working conditions, it reveals the ongoing effects of added stressors arising from the Covid-19 pandemic on people’s work, income, social connectedness, and mental health,” she says.
Additional findings from the survey of more than 1,300 industry professionals included that 35% reported a current mental health condition, 29% reported having an anxiety condition, and 27% reported having depression – all well above the national average.
More than a third reported incomes from their work in music/live performing arts as less than AUS$30,000 per annum, and only 15% said they always felt safe at work.
Read the full report here.
Top agents call for action on diversity
Top agents called for a more diverse, inclusive and equitable industry during last week’s ESNS (Eurosonic Noorderslag).
Hannah Shogbola (UTA), Natasha Gregory (Mother Artists), Sally Dunstone (Primary Talent International) and Whitney Boateng (WME) came together for the all-female Agents Panel – hailed as “a long-overdue milestone” by moderator Maria May (CAA).
“We are representing the change we want to see,” said May during her opening gambit for the digital session. “I believe the music industry has a duty to continue to strive forward post-pandemic be even more progressive, more inclusive, and representative of the world that we live in.”
However, WME’s Boateng says there’s a “lot more work that needs to be done in the industry”. “It is still predominantly old white male and it has been for years,” she added. “Change has to come from the top-down and it has to be more than black squares.”
UTA’s Shogbola agreed: “If you are looking around your office and it does not reflect the society that you live in and the roster that you look after, then there is something categorically wrong.”
Black squares were posted on social media as part of the music industry’s Blackout Tuesday movement, a protest against racism and police brutality in response to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
“As a black woman within this industry, it’s frustrating that even 15-20 years into my career, it takes the death of somebody like George Floyd for our industry to finally open its eyes,” said Shogbola.
“The industry has a duty to be even more progressive, more inclusive, and representative of the world that we live in”
Boateng pointed out that it’s not just racial inequalities that the industry needs to fix but also disparities around sexuality and gender, with the panel unanimously agreeing that diversity on line-ups is still “not good enough”.
“It’s so important that when anybody is going to a show, they feel like it’s a safe and inclusive space for them,” said Dunstone.
Elsewhere during the panel, Mother Artists’ Gregory says that flexibility towards employees’ work hours will also be a key feature in a more equitable post-pandemic industry.
“Working 9–5 is not equality because everybody has a different situation, a different experience and different needs,” argued Gregory. “Being an agent is not a 9–5 anyway so just put trust in your team – working hard is a given in this industry.”
Dunstone agreed: “Adaptability and flexibility are massive takeaways from the last two years. Hopefully, we’ll pick and choose the bits of [pandemic life] that worked for us.”
The 36th edition of ESNS took place under the banner ‘Building Back Better, Together’ and focussed on getting the industry back on its feet after two years of the pandemic.
The hybrid conference and festival wrapped on Friday (21 January) and Dago Houben, director of ESNS said that “despite the fact that there is definitely screen fatigue, we were able to perform our platform function for the national and international music industry.
Roadie Cookbook to fund mental health aid on tour
A group of live music crew members have curated a non-profit cookbook with the aim of funding mental health first aid training for ‘every tour bus in the UK’.
The publication, titled The Roadie Cookbook: Toured There, Ate That, is a collection of 50 recipes, anecdotes and advice, helping road crew continue to enjoy meals together in the absence of crew catering.
The brains behind the book is production manager Nick Gosling (Nile Rodgers & Chic), who came up with the idea in April 2020, at the onset of the pandemic.
The project was curated with production coordinator Julie Cotton (Massive Attack), production assistant Athena Caramitsos and backline tech Rich House (Elbow), after the four encouraged their peers to share recipes over social media and Zoom in the absence of touring.
“While almost every venue in the world closed, home kitchens became the new catering hub for unemployed workers”
“Food is a fundamental part of life on the road,” a press release reads. “When the devastation of Covid-19 hit, live music stopped overnight, and tour buses stood still. While almost every venue in the world closed, home kitchens became the new catering hub for unemployed music workers.
“As stories of memorable meals and secret ingredients in roadie comfort food took hold, so did the stark reality that isolation and mental ill-health was becoming commonplace within the forgotten touring business…the idea of an industry cookbook was formed.”
The book’s contributors have worked with artists and events ranging from Dolly Parton to Bryan Ferry, Chemical Brothers, Kylie Minogue, Glastonbury, Linkin Park, Robbie Williams, Anastacia and Jay Z.
Recipes include The Killer Sandwich, Stage Left Satay Bowls, Tour Bus Nachos, and the Loose Cocktail.
Pre-order The Roadie Cookbook: Toured There, Ate That for £25 here.
MMF updates guide to mental health
The Music Managers Forum (MMF) has published a new expanded version of the MMF Guide to Mental Health 2021 – a free online resource tailored specifically to the wellbeing concerns of modern-day managers.
Stress management, imposter syndrome, anxiety and depression, alcoholism and drug dependency, and healthy boundaries are among the issues addressed in the guide, which also includes a full directory of professional support services and signposting to further reading and detailed expertise.
The updated version, which is being discussed today at music industry conference The Great Escape, is co-authored with Sam Parker of specialist music mental health consultants Parker Consulting and co-founder of Music Support.
MMF Chair and Biffy Clyro manager Paul Craig has penned the introduction and chairman and CEO of Universal Music UK David Joseph has written the guide’s closing words.
“Managers often experience extreme stress which has only recently been properly recognised”
“I’m really proud that the MMF continues to recognise the importance of mental health support for music managers and artists,” says MMF chair and Biffy Clyro manager, Paul Craig.
“Through initiatives like this updated guide and our revised Code of Practice we continue to be part of a vital industry-wide conversation. Managers and artists often experience extreme stress, with a myriad of highs and lows, which has only recently been properly recognised and which the pandemic has exacerbated and placed immense focus on. The more we talk openly and candidly about these pressures, the better the safeguarding and guidance everyone will be able to provide in the coming years.”
Sam Parker, co-author of the MMF Mental Health Guide, says: “Music has the power to educate, to break down cultural, social and economic barriers, to influence politics and promote cultural appreciation. As an audience member at a live show it can make you dance, sing and share a common experience with those around you that will be remembered forever. It enriches the human experience.
“What better job could there be than to facilitate this? But sometimes the level of intensity can take its toll. This updated guide takes some of those challenges and presents solutions, which I hope will allow artist managers to successfully support the work and careers of their artists without sacrificing their own health and well-being in the process. All whilst performing a job that is truly unique. I look forward to discussing the nature of this relationship and the guide at the Great Escape today.”
Positive changes in touring start with baby steps
Continuing our series of columns by leading production and tour managers, IQ speaks to Rebecca Travis who has been on the road for over two decades with artists including Florence + The Machine, Ellie Goulding and Arcade Fire. Catch up on the previous Production Notes comment from Chris Kansy here.
IQ: What was the last tour you did before the pandemic took effect in 2020?
RT: I was in Australia with Freya Ridings, and the fear of the pandemic was definitely bubbling. After our second show, in Melbourne on 12 March, we knew we had to get everybody home. We got back and they shut the Australian border shortly after – the timing was so tight.
How has lockdown treated you?
My partner and I moved to the Scottish borders and it’s a beautiful part of the world. I’ve been on tour for 20 years and this is the longest I’ve been at home. There are parts of this that are really positive. There were so many years where I decided to have a quiet year but was then offered an amazing opportunity I couldn’t turn down, so the enforced downtime has definitely had positives. But enough already… can we please get back to work now?
During lockdown you joined the newly formed Touring Production Group (TPG). Can you tell us more about that?
TPG started as weekly Zooms with production and tour managers (organised and chaired by Wob Roberts) getting together to produce a document on how we might tour post-Covid. It developed into something bigger and subgroups were formed in sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion; and mental welfare and personal wellbeing.
I really hope when we finally get back on the road that we can actually put [TPG’s] ideas into practice and make a difference
We have now opened up membership and have had a great response from people keen to make positive changes in touring. It’s important that people in this sector support each other and share knowledge and values and ideas about how we can make the industry a better place to be. I really hope when we finally get back on the road that we can actually put these ideas into practice and make a difference.
In which areas of touring do you hope TPG will make an impact?
Hopefully, in all of the areas we are working on. For example, sustainability. If we’re all asking venues for certain things to make the industry greener, hopefully it’ll become the norm to provide them. I think a lot of these changes have to come from the artist and then it’ll just become a part of what we have to do – it’ll be normal to say “we’re not going to do that trip” or “we’ll offset that trip.”
We’ve also spoken to agents about routing tours in a greener way, asking that they don’t make us double back on ourselves, but we have to be realistic – post-Covid tour routing will be a challenge for agents. We’ve spoken about sustainability all this time; we have to start now and at least implement small changes and keep the discussions going even when we’re back to work.
We can’t just jump straight back on a bus and do 18-hour days. We’re not match fit
Have you had any revelations about the way the touring industry operates?
There have been a lot of revelations about the madness of zipping all over the world; moving in ten trucks’ worth of equipment, setting it up for a show and then putting it back in the trucks and moving it to the next place. Perhaps we will see bands adopt a more simple stage set-up, rather than lugging around all these bells and whistles. Also, Covid-wise, are we going to want to have 14 or 16 people on a tour bus? Maybe things will be scaled down a bit when we return.
Has the enforced downtime put into perspective just how demanding your job is?
Yes. It would be ideal to perhaps do a little less touring and maybe not take 18 months of solid work at a time. We do long hours on the road – you might get up at six in the morning and might not get back into the bunk until 3 am, and you’re going to do that three times in a row before you have a day off and can collapse in a heap.
In the TPG’s mental health and welfare chats, we’re discussing how to make that better, especially because we’ve just had completely different lives throughout the pandemic. We can’t just jump straight back on a bus and do 18-hour days. We’re not match fit. I think, in terms of all these things like mental health and sustainability, it’s about gently easing ourselves back into this. Baby steps.