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.”
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One Industry One Voice issues mental health resources
One Industry One Voice (OIOV), the coalition of UK events associations and businesses, has issued a list of mental health resources for event professionals in time for Christmas.
As 2020 comes to a close, bringing to an end the most difficult year in history for those working in live events, OIOV – whose membership includes LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment), as well as WeMakeEvents, BVEP, SOLT and more – has produced the list to aid those experiencing stress and mental health issues ahead of the festive season.
“As other industries now begin to return to work, restrictions upon capacities and social distancing [mean] a large number of live events are no longer viable, and the people who organise and deliver them remain out of work,” says OIOV in a statement.
“For many of these people, on furlough, or facing or having been made redundant; those who’ve fallen through the cracks and haven’t had access to financial support; even those still at work in an industry that’s changing, this has been and remains a hugely stressful time with no clear end in sight.
“It’s good to talk and it’s important not to suffer alone”
“While there are a number of industry campaigns working towards securing financial support, removing restrictions and helping people get back to work, for lots of people if feels like time is running out and there’s nowhere to turn.”
While many people are aware of at least one or two organisations who can help, OIOV points out that, to date, there isn’t a single industry resource signposting all resources – something it aims to change by issuing the list below.
“If you’re experiencing stress or mental health issues, or if it simply feels like it’s getting too much, it’s important to get help and support, whether this be from a partner, friend, colleague or professional,” the organisation adds. “It’s good to talk and it’s important not to suffer alone.”
Keep reading for the full list…
Eventwell is a registered community social enterprise (not for profit) set up to be the event industry’s charitable community and support service for mental health and wellbeing. Their website offers a helpline you can contact via email, text or WhatsApp. There are also groups on LinkedIn and Facebook offering support and advice.
Stress Matters is an events industry-specific workplace wellbeing organisation focused on generating insights, creating accountability and providing support. The website contains links to access to confidential ‘support circles’, running Wednesdays at 8.30pm on Zoom, providing an opportunity to listen, talk and support other industry colleagues. No registration is required: you can jump straight in using meeting ID 82595995950 and password 455098. Buddies Matter, meanwhile, is a free peer-to-peer support scheme for event professionals, particularly freelancers, with the aim of matching people together to provide mutual support.
Music Support is a registered charity founded and run by people from the UK music industry for individuals suffering from mental, emotional and behavioural health disorders (including, but not limited to alcohol and drug addiction). The current services offered are a helpline, 0800 030 6789, open Monday–Friday from 9am to 5pm; the Thrive app, for txt-based coaching; Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) training; and a weekly online 12-step support group meeting for industry peers in recovery from addiction.
Back Up Tech
Backup provides financial support to entertainment technology industry professionals who are seriously ill or injured or to their surviving family members. Grants are tailored to each individual and uses can include basic living costs, medical related expenses, transportation, and funeral expenses.
The British Association for Performing Arts Medicine is a healthcare charity giving medical advice to people working and studying in the performing arts. BAPAM help you overcome (and preferably avoid) work-related health problems and is dedicated to sharing knowledge about healthy practice. BAPAM helps support musicians with free and confidential GP assessment clinics, and referrals to the best treatment available.
Help Musicians is an independent UK charity for professional musicians offering a 24/7 helpline alongside health and welfare support. The helpline, Music Minds Matter (0808 802 8008) is available any time of day or night for a listening ear; it doesn’t have to be a crisis. MMM has trained advisors that are there to listen, support and help at any time.
The Theatrical Guild
A UK charity for backstage and front-of-house workers with over 125 years’ experience helping people. Talk to The Theatrical Guild for practical help at any stage of your career – from welfare and debt advice to financial support and counselling.
Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. The organisation campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. Mind provides both an ‘Infoline’, which offers callers confidential help for the price of a local call, and a ‘Legal Line’, which provides information on mental health-related law to the public, service users, family members/carers, mental health professionals and mental health advocates. The Mind website also contains a number of publications and information.
Samaritans is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a week helpline. Every seven seconds, Samaritans answers a call for help, day or night, for anyone who’s struggling to cope; anyone who needs someone to listen without judgement or pressure. You can call Samaritans on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm) is leading a movement against suicide. Calm runs a free and anonymous helpline, seven days a week, 365 days a year, from 5pm to midnight. To speak to someone, call 0800 585858 or visit www.thecalmzone.net/help.
Sane is a leading UK mental health charity working to improve the quality of life for anyone affected by mental illness. Sane provides emotional support, guidance and information to anyone affected by mental illness, including families, friends and carers. Although the previous SANEline number cannot operate at the moment, you can leave a message on 07984 967 708, giving your first name and a contact number, and one of Sane’s professionals or senior volunteers will call you back as soon as practicable. You can also email Sane at email@example.com.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
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Global biz backs World Mental Health Day 2019
Several initiatives aiming to improve the mental health of the international music industry have been announced in the run-up to World Mental Health Day (WMHD) 2019, which takes place worldwide today (10 October).
The Music Industry Therapist Collective (MITC), launched earlier this year by a collective of industry psychotherapists, has revealed that its 300-page Touring and Mental Health Manual is now fully funded – having smashed through its £21,774 goal courtesy of a donation from Live Nation’s president and CEO, Michael Rapino.
“Artists and crews spend their lives on the road, bringing shows to life for fans around the world. But that dedication can come with sacrifice,” says Rapino. “It’s critical that we provide support to ensure that everyone can maintain sound mind and body while on the road. Live Nation is proud to join the Music Industry Therapist Collective in providing new resources for mental health and wellness for the behind-the-scenes heroes who make it all happen.”
“As clinicians working with artists we witness a wide range of psychological difficulties that can occur on or as a result of touring, including loneliness, performance anxiety, band conflict, addiction and dependency, post-tour depression, relationship difficulties and burn-out,” adds Embleton. “This manual will provide practical, clinically sound advice on how to identify, approach and cope with these, and many other, difficulties, helping artists and crew to have healthier, more sustainable careers in the live music industry.”
“It’s critical that we provide support to ensure that everyone can maintain sound mind and body while on the road”
Also launching a guide, targeted at those working in its sector of the music industry, is the Association for Electronic Music (AFEM), which published its new Electronic Music Industry Guide to Mental Health today.
The publication, which updates the Music Managers Forum’s Guide to Mental Health, is produced by Afem alongside Help Musicians UK and Music Support. The guide covers key mental health issues that affect those working in the electronic music industry, including anxiety, depression, alcohol, substance abuse/dependency, work/life imbalance and lack of sleep.
Sleep coach and mental health ambassador Tom Middleton, co-chair of Afem’s health group, says: “This guide represents a clear shift towards responsibility, accountability and duty of care within the industry, with expertly curated top-line actionable prevention and self-care advice and signposting to professional mental health support.”
The guide also contains a directory which lists key contacts for those needing help, which Afem will expand to cover all 25 countries in which it has members.
MITC’s Embleton, also the new Afem health working group co-chair, adds: “Working in the electronic music industry can be deeply rewarding but it is also competitive, fast-paced, unpredictable and hedonistic. Job insecurity, shame and demanding work schedules can act as barriers to individuals realising that they need help. I hope that this guide can support those working in the industry by helping them to identify signs and symptoms of when someone is struggling, so that they can better support themselves and those around them.”
“Working in the industry can be deeply rewarding, but it is also competitive, fast-paced, unpredictable and hedonistic”
Music Support’s World Mental Health Day 2019 also sees it partnering with the Event Safety Shop (Tess), the UK-based event safety specialist, to support its work, which includes an emergency helpline, training workshops and ‘Safe Hubs’ at music festivals, where backstage staff can speak to mental health first-aiders.
“With three decades working in live events, I have too many personal experiences witnessing people suffering with mental health issues without adequate support,” says Tess director Simon James. “We work in a pressured environment and we’re very proud to do what we can assisting Music Support in bringing empathetic, professional help into the music industry.”
Music Support MD Eric Mtungwazi adds: “Music Support is delighted that Tess has chosen to support the charity in helping industry peers affected by mental ill health and/or addiction issues.
“Tess is a leader in the field of health and safety needs, and we see this partnership as a significant industry step forward towards putting mental and physical health agenda on more even footing for the wellbeing of the community we serve.”
“We work in a pressured environment and we’re very proud to do what we can assisting Music Support”
In the US, LightHopeLife, a suicide prevention and awareness charity, has launched Tour Support, a non-profit service offering mental health support for the touring industry.
Backed by the likes of Live Nation, WME and artists including John Legend, Steve Aoki, José González and My Morning Jacket, aims to provide touring professionals (artists and crew) with support when they’re on the road.
Tour Support’s first initiative is a partnership with online therapy provider BetterHelp, which will allow tours to purchase a plan that makes professional counselling available anytime, anywhere, via text, phone or video chat, to everyone in their organisation.
BetterHelp has additionally gifted $250,000 worth of services to new and independent artists.
“Online counselling is a great solution to people on-the-go and those with hectic schedules, so it’s a natural fit for musicians and the people who work with them,” says BetterHelp founder and president Alon Matas.
“Tour Support’s initiative can be life-changing for so many people, and it aligns perfectly with our mission to make professional counselling accessible anytime, anywhere. We’re proud and excited to partner with an organisation that proactively addresses the mental health needs of their industry.”
“Tour Support’s initiative can be life-changing for so many people”
Tour Support also counts Vicky Cornell, widow of Chris Cornell, as a supporter, with her Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation coming on board.
“Tour Support’s trainings and resources will specifically help support the music community that Chris will always be a part of,” she explains. “I’m honoured to be a part of their efforts to raise awareness, educate and support our extended families on the road.”
WMHD, created by the World Federation for Mental Health, has been observed annually since 1992. World Mental Health Day 2019’s theme is the prevention of suicide, which kills 800,000 people every year, and is the leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds.
Find out how the music community marked last year’s World Mental Health Day here.
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Therapists develop mental health guide for touring
The Music Industry Therapist Collective (MITC), a group of psychotherapists with a background in the live music industry, is seeking funding for a best practice guide tackling mental health issues in the business.
The group is aiming to raise £21,774 over the next 55 days to create an “in-depth, clinically sound practical manual to support and guide all those who struggle with mental health on tour.”
The 300-page Touring and Mental Health Manual will offer guidance on how to handle psychological difficulties that arise from touring, such as loneliness; drug-induced psychosis; performance anxiety; addiction; stress and burn-out; trauma; and post-tour depression.
Agent-turned-psychotherapist Tamsin Embleton, who founded MITC, recently told IQ that the “competitive, turbulent and stressful” nature of touring life, as well as “long working hours, poor boundaries between social and work life, and easy access to drink and drugs” can often make those in the entertainment industry susceptible to mental health-related issues.
“This is a vital and most welcomed resource for our industry and touring community”
“This is a vital and most welcomed resource for our industry and touring community,” comments Eric Mtungwazi, managing director of mental health charity Music Support.
“Understanding how to look after your mental health and wellbeing, and knowing how to pre-empt and respond to some of the unique challenges on the journey, is a critical to thriving and working sustainably in the music industry.”
Nile Rodgers, who will be crowned Artists’ Artist at the Artist and Manager Awards in November, comments that “being away from home and loved ones can be incredibly hard work mentally” while in the fast-paced touring environment.
“Having what is effectively a mental health wellness manual to keep yourself in check is a wonderful initiative,” says Rodgers.
Donations to the Touring and Mental Health Manual can be made here. Rewards including digital and physical copies of the manual, mental health training and a logo on the sponsors’ page of the guide are available for those who donate.
Any funds raised over the target amount will go towards creating a non-crisis mental health fund, offering medium- and long-term therapeutic support to those in need.
Read more about how the music business is fighting mental illness here:
A High Cost: How the biz is fighting back against mental illness
People in every profession and walk of life struggle with maintaining a healthy mind, and in an increasingly fast-paced and over-stimulated world, problems including anxiety, depression, insomnia, addiction and burn-out affect all corners of society.
According to the World Health Organisation, one in four people will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lives. Tragically, almost 800,000 lives are lost to suicide each year, equating to one death every 40 seconds. Mental health-related issues, then, are certainly not unique to the live music industry. However, many of the factors that contribute to problems – such as intense stimulation, irregular sleeping patterns, substance abuse, high pressure and loneliness – are often encountered by those within it.
The “competitive, turbulent and stressful” nature of the live entertainment industry, as well as “long working hours, poor boundaries between social and work life, and easy access to drink and drugs” pose many challenges to those working within it, says agent-turned-psychotherapist Tamsin Embleton.
The pressure to gain and maintain success at one end, and job precarity and financial pressures for those starting out in the industry, or working in low-level backstage positions, at the other, can also increase the risk of harmful behaviours.
The specific demands and pressures thrown up by touring present further challenges to those working at all levels and in all sectors of the industry. “Live performers often have issues with loneliness,” states Association for Electronic Music (AFEM) regional manager Tristan Hunt, referencing the abrupt emotional comedown experienced after performing to a fan-filled venue.
“Acts can also struggle with the demands of performing multiple times in a short period, or experience things like performance anxiety,” continues Hunt. “This is combined with access to substances to alleviate those pressures.”
A recent study into musicians’ mental health, carried out by Swedish digital music distributor Record Union, revealed that 73% of artists surveyed had suffered from mental health issues. Those working behind the scenes face similar issues, too. “Artists normally have management and a support network, but the people around them are under immense strain, too,” Andy Franks, co-founder of mental health charity Music Support, tells IQ.
“The doors always have to open, and the show always has to go on. There’s an incredible amount of pressure and euphoria, and when it’s over there’s quite a void in your life,” says Franks.
“Once shared, the problem gets smaller”
A rising awareness
Conversations surrounding wellbeing within the industry have cropped up more and more in recent years. The tragic, high-profile suicide of Avicii, real name Tim Bergling, in 2018, and the death of Prodigy frontman Keith Flint earlier this year, shocked and saddened many and thrust mental wellbeing into the spotlight.
Backstage, professionals attending the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) in March spoke of the “sad reality” of losing friends and colleagues to suicide, discussing ways in which working conditions could be altered to prioritise the welfare of staff.
Support has sprung up in a variety of forms, from documents detailing modes of best practice, to scientific study into the mechanisms of a healthy mind, and music industry specific helplines to offer a friendly and knowledgeable voice to those in need.
Lina Ugrinovska, international booker at Macedonia-based Password Production, was public about a 2016 burn out. “When I shared my own story, and every step of the way afterwards, I realised that talking about it really does makes a big difference,” she says, “I’m really pleased to see that many initiatives and support centres have been built, and personal stories have been shared.”
Perceived stigma around mental health can often prevent individuals from speaking out, accentuating feelings of isolation and exacerbating the severity of issues. “Once shared, the problem gets smaller,” says Ugrinovska, who began her own initiative, Mental Health Care in the Music Industry, last year. Since then, she has been an advocate for mental health at international conferences across Europe and also formed part of the first decentralised Ni9ht H3lps workshop in Prague.
However, in Ugrinovska’s native Macedonia, as well as the rest of the Balkan region, she says there is “nothing” to support music industry professionals struggling with mental health issues. “The market here is really small and so is the number of people involved in the industry, but we are also facing the same struggles and people do not know who they can turn to,” says Ugrinovska.
The focus on mental health in panel discussions, expert talks and workshops at major industry conferences and events is a good step towards disseminating information about available services, as well as normalising and destigmatising the taboo. “People are hungry for information [about mental health and wellbeing], and they are also keen to find out about it in a slightly more dynamic way,” says Jenni Cochrane, co-founder of Getahead, a 24-hour “festival of the head.”
Fusing education and entertainment, Get Ahead shines the spotlight on employee wellbeing, informs people of where to get help, and celebrates life, according to Cochrane. “There’s no real understanding of the damage mental health issues are having on musicians and other staff, too,” she states, “but collectively, we are all becoming more in tune with it.”
“Peer support is an incredible thing”
Raising awareness and stimulating conversation is one way of removing stigma and encouraging people to voice their struggles. However, complex specificities continue to govern the culture of silence in many parts of the industry, as Lori Rubinstein, executive director of US-based Behind the Scenes Foundation, explains.
“People who are used to being on tour are not used to speaking out – they are the ones who solve the problems,” states Rubinstein, whose foundation provides grants to production workers unable to work due to illness or injury. Being on the road, says the Behind the Scenes executive, means individuals are away from family and friends and often working in a temporary team of colleagues who are unlikely to pick up on changes in behaviour.
The transitory and highly specific nature of touring also complicates the establishment of a relationship with a regular therapist, or other medical professional, who may be sensitive to the situation at hand. To combat these issues, some music industry professionals have taken matters into their own hands.
Music Support came about from the desire to create a service that was “fine-tuned” to the needs of those in the music business, says co-founder Franks. Having suffered personally from addiction issues and finding himself “at a loss” as to how to tackle it, he wanted to prevent others from having the same experience.
The 24/7 helpline offers industry-specific advice and guidance for music industry professionals struggling with mental illness and points them in the direction of appropriate medical help. The initiative has set up backstage areas known as “safe tents” at major music festivals across the UK, including Download, Reading and Leeds Festivals and British Summer Time in Hyde Park, to offer people an “escape” and a space to get some respite and information.
The spaces also host Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings for those struggling with addiction on the road.
“Peer support is an incredible thing,” says Franks. “We don’t necessarily have all the solutions but we can let people know that this is not something they have to suffer alone.”
Offering a clinical perspective is the Music Industry Therapist Collective, a group of psychotherapists and counsellors with a background in the industry. The collective, based in London and Los Angeles, works in person and online with individuals and bands, as well as offering workshops and group therapy. The collective is also working on a best practice guide, the Touring and Mental Health manual, to tackle issues including performance anxiety; relationship difficulties; addiction; stress and burn-out; trauma; and post-tour depression.
PledgeMusic demise prompts industry support for artists
A group of industry organisations has launched an impact assessment survey to determine the severity and breadth of financial damage to artists affected by the demise of crowdfunding platform PledgeMusic.
Reports have circulated for close to a year that PledgeMusic was failing to pay artists who raised funds through its platform. Following the platform’s collapse, many artists remain deeply out of pocket.
The UK’s Musicians’ Union is hosting the survey, which closes on Tuesday 25 June, and is to be completed by individuals and businesses alike.
The survey is promoted collaboratively by UK Music, who last month called on competition watchdogs to investigate the beleaguered PledgeMusic, Music Managers’ Forum (MMF), the Association of Independent Musicians (AIM), PRS Foundation and International Showcase Fund partners including the Music Producers Guild (MPG) and Music Support.
The group hopes that information provided through the survey will illuminate the scale of the fallout from PledgeMusic’s collapse and help the industry to ensure artists and businesses receive the support they require.
In a joint statement, the industry bodies behind the survey wrote:
“As organisations who want to see the music industry thrive, we are deeply disappointed that PledgeMusic has announced its bankruptcy leaving artists and fans out of pocket and with little communication or advice on how to deal with campaign disruption.
“We are deeply disappointed that PledgeMusic has announced its bankruptcy leaving artists and fans out of pocket and with little communication or advice on how to deal with campaign disruption”
“The failure of PledgeMusic to appropriately ring-fence artist and fan money has the potential to damage artists’ careers and their relationships with fans and fellow creators if they can’t deliver on stalled campaigns.
“Individually, each of our organisations has been working hard to support our members during this difficult time. However, in order to consider collective action we have launched an industry-wide survey to assess the impact of the PledgeMusic closure.”
The survey has received artist support from UK band Jesus Jones, who used PledgeMusic to fund the release of their album Voyages, and has spearheaded the artists community’s reaction to the platform’s collapse.
“It’s really gratifying to see a strong industry-wide response taking place,” comment the band.
“As artists, as fans, as people who’ve come to realise the potential strength of crowdfunding, it’s vital that we all stand together, and rebuild confidence – and also seek to ensure that Pledge are held accountable for betraying such a vital bond of trust.”
IPM 12: The Show Must Go On, But at What Cost?
The 12th annual ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) kicked off this morning with a discussion surrounding one of the key concerns facing production crews: mental and physical wellbeing.
Guest host Rachel Haughey, of Four Corners of the World, welcomed delegates before chair Chris Vaughan introduced the panel.
“A disproportionate amount of friends and colleagues are not making it to their 60th birthday,” commented Vaughan, presenting the issue that was to underlie the panel.
Vaughan explained that the move from theatre to arena shows has put pressure on crews to work longer hours. A normal working day for crews, said Vaughan, begins at 6.30am and ends 20 hours later.
“If we don’t do something about this, the government agencies will,” stated Vaughan.
Dr Kate Bunyan of MB Medical Solutions discussed the consequences of chronic sleep deprivation for workers’ physical wellbeing.
“We have a group of highly qualified professionals whose lives are shortened just because of their work patterns,” summarised Bunyan, apologising for being the “bringer of glorious doom”.
“If it’s a weakness to admit you’re depressed, who can you turn to?”
‘Deptford’ John Armitage of the Guitar Hospital moved the conversation to mental health: “When I started, rehab was for quitters and sleep was for babies,” said the touring guitar tech. “If it’s a weakness to admit you’re depressed, who can you turn to?”
The loss of friends and colleagues to suicide is a sad reality, which Armitage revealed is all too common for those working in the industry: “no one on tour is getting the care they should get.”
However, some help is on offer, as Chula Goonewardene, clinical consultant for Music Support, explained. “It is possible to find people that pathway into care,” said Goonewardene, speaking of the importance of well-handled crisis intervention.
The psychotherapist also stressed the need for a “dual-pronged approach”, with preventative measures facilitating a culture shift and helping people to spot warning signs.
Production manager, Joanna Hartle, explained the need to educate crew members, allowing them to capitalise on specialist skill sets and move industry if desired. “I could see that my former colleagues weren’t able to get out of the industry,” said Hartle.
The session wrapped up as panellists discussed the mounting pressures and demands for stage designers. “Do we really need all that shit for four people to sing around?” asked a bemused Armitage, as the room broke into applause.
Countdown to the Arthurs 2019: Andy Franks
He might look as if he’s been around the block a few times, but 2019 marks Arthur’s 25th birthday, so to celebrate his landmark silver anniversary, we contacted some past winners of the coveted statuette, awarded annually at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) in London.
As well as learning what the arrival of Arthur meant to their professional lives (and where he resides in their homes and offices), we asked our alumni to share their hopes and dreams for the future; their most memorable ILMC and Gala Dinner moments; and what new Arthur category they might like to see in our annual awards show.
First up: Andy Franks, tour manager and co-founder of Music Support, the mental health charity for the UK music industry, who won the Gaffer award – then known as Plumber of the Year – in 2006, 2008 and 2012…
Winning Plumber of the Year has certainly increased the number of calls I get to fix blocked drains and cracked water pipes… It was actually very nice to get recognition from members of our community to say “well done”. We all get on with the jobs we are given but to be recognised is a great feeling and very much appreciated.
I had a number of house moves recently, and although Arthur is in my office, he is in three pieces – does anyone know a good production manager who can help fix it?
The Gala Dinner and Arthur Awards is always a great place to meet with all your fellow professionals. It’s usually more full of agents and promoters than production staff but I think there is never a dull moment when Chuggy [Michael Chugg] is there, with or without his wheelchair!
To get so many people from all over the world in a room together to meet and say “hi” and break bread is fantastic. It is a great chance to meet the people you only see once or twice a year, all at once. Great to see Thomas [Johansson] and Tor [Nielsen], Robert Grima, Marek [Lieberberg], Chuggy, of course, and people like Attie van Wyk or Marty Diamond.
“To get so many people from all over the world in a room together to meet and say ‘hi’ and break bread is fantastic”
If there was going to be a new Arthur, I’d suggest the ‘Spare a Euro for a Cuppa’ award for the best charitable initiative, or for setting up a charitable/awareness event.
As we move into the next decade, I think we will see virtual ticketing take over – and blockchain purchasing. Productions will get more extravagant, with visual and holograms playing a big part. I will definitely retire as I am getting too old for all this…
I hope that this wonderful business can get more people to work together in partnership. But mostly to look after the welfare of those around them, to support the charitable aspects of the business and to look after those more vulnerable and less capable than themselves.
Other previous Plumber of the Year/The Gaffer winners include Chris Marsh, Tony Gittins, Arthur Kemish, Jason Danter, Bill Leabody, Jesse Sandler, Jason Danter, Chris Kansy, Wob Roberts, Mike Scobie, Chrissy Uerlings, Jake Berry, Steve Martin, Henry McGroggan, Steve Levitt, Lee Charteris, Edwin Shirley, Bryan Grant and Sophie Ridley.
Minding our own business: why mental health needs more attention
Traditionally an industry that attracts passionate and creative individuals who are willing to go the extra mile, the highly competitive live music business appears to be rife with fatigue, anxiety, stress, and drink – and drug-related problems.
A recent survey of more than 500 promoters, event organisers and venue owners, by ticket agency Skiddle indicates the extent of the welfare challenge facing the music industry. Some 82% of respondents said they had suffered with stress, 67% said they had anxiety, and 40% said they had struggled with depression.
Skiddle found 65% of promoters admitted to frequently feeling an “intense and unmanageable level of pressure.”
Someone who knows first hand what it feels like to suffer mental health issues as a result of intense pressure at work is production manager Andy Franks. After being sacked from a tour as a result of excessive drinking, Franks says he didn’t know where to turn to for help.
After meeting artist manager Matt Thomas, and collectively realising that drink – and drug-related mental health problems were widespread in the recorded and live music sectors, the duo founded the charity Music Support.
Franks says the aim of Music Support’s tagline – ‘You Are Not Alone’ – is to emphasise that the charity is there to ensure there is always someone on hand to help.
As well as offering a 24-hour helpline manned by volunteers with experience in the music industry, Music Support provides Safe Tents backstage at UK festivals, and services including crisis support and trauma therapy.
“We get feedback from people who we have helped and it is awe inspiring, we know we have saved people’s lives”
“We get feedback from people who we have helped and it is awe inspiring, we know we have saved people’s lives,” says Franks. As well as crew, promoters and venue staff, artists are also affected by the enormous pressures involved in delivering live music. One of the patrons of Music Support is Robbie Williams, while acts including Depeche Mode and Coldplay are among those to have helped fund the charity.
Despite the high-level backing, Franks says the future of Music Support is far from secure unless further funding can be found.
“These problems are in everyone’s business and we are providing a valuable service, but the only way we can sustain that is with regular funding. We are in desperate need of sustained funding,” says Franks.
Lina Ugrinovska is another live music industry executive who, having struggled with issues including stress, became determined to help others overcome their problems.
Ugrinovska handles international booking at Password Production in Macedonia. Earlier this year she launched the ‘Mental Health Care in the Music Industry’ initiative with the aim of raising the profile of mental health issues, and helping people to tackle their problems via mentoring sessions and panel discussions.
She says, “I feel a responsibility to open the box and show that people should feel comfortable talking about their issues, instead of treating them as a sign of weakness.
“The idea behind the initiative is to raise awareness and help develop a healthier industry, through sharing stories, diagnosing, prevention and problem solving. It is something that everyone involved in this industry should take responsibility for.”
“I feel a responsibility to open the box and show that people should feel comfortable talking about their issues, instead of treating them as a sign of weakness”
An organisation that clearly has its employees’ best interests at heart is UK performance rights organisation PRS for Music. It used World Mental Health Day to announce the launch of an initiative that will see 16 of its staff trained as ‘mental health first-aiders.’
The initiative, in partnership with Mental Health First Aid England, is the next step in a series of wellbeing programmes carried out by the organisation in recent years.
Steve Powell, PRS for Music chief financial officer, says, “We have undertaken wellbeing programmes covering issues including nutrition, physical, financial, digital detox, and mental health. This latest initiative enables people to have conversations more regularly and outside of a structured programme.
“The area of stress and mental resilience is something that more and more people are having to cope with. This initiative is designed to enable people to talk about mental health and break down the stigma surrounding it in an informal and confidential way.”
Another organisation providing a 24-hours-a-day, seven- days-a-week help line for people suffering with mental health issues is Britain’s Help Musicians. Its Music Minds Matter service was launched in December in response to the findings of its Can Music Make You Sick? study released the previous year.
Nearly three quarters of survey respondents stated they had experienced anxiety and depression, while more than half said there wasn’t sufficient support available. Aside from the helpline, Music Support provides a network of international counsellors to help those in need while out on tour.
Formerly known as the Musicians Benevolent Fund, which was set up in 1921, Help Musicians not only helps people with mental health issues, but other problems including isolation and financial turmoil.
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Music industry backs World Mental Health Day
Today (10 October) is World Mental Health Day 2018, and artists, music companies and industry charities are doing their bit to raise awareness of what has been called an industry wide mental health crisis.
World Mental Health Day, created by the World Federation for Mental Health, has been observed annually since 1992. This year’s theme is ‘Young people and mental health in a changing world’, recognising the specific challenges faced by young people, one in five of whom will suffer with mental illness before they reach 24.
Several well-publicised studies have revealed that poor mental health is particularly prevalent in the global music industry, including Norwegian research from 2016 that found musicians are three times more likely to be undergoing psychotherapy than the average person, and 50% more likely to be using psychotropic medication, and a Victoria University study in 2017 that discovered the incidence of depression for those working in live entertainment is five times higher than the general population.
Among the organisations seeking to make headlines like those history is Britain’s Help Musicians UK (HMUK), which is using World Mental Health Day (WMH Day) to publicise its Music Minds Matter service, which it announced last July and launched in December in response to what it called a “mental health crisis” in the music industry.
Using the hashtag #MyMusicMindMatters, HMUK will “keep the conversation [around mental health] going by inviting the industry, artists, friends, supporters and social media communities to share the music that ‘matters’ to them.” The music will then be compiled into a playlist to raise awareness of the Music Minds Matter service, which combines a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week helpline with clinical, medical, therapeutic and welfare support for those in need.
“We wanted to … shine a light on the worryingly common issues of mental health across the music industry”
The charity has also announced new partnerships with electronic music school Point Blank, on this evening’s Guide to Survival in the Music Industry session, and US-based nonprofit Give An Hour, for the second Global Summit on Mental Health Culture Change, taking place in London from 10 to 12 October, as well as supporting the upcoming Venues Day 2018 conference.
“By launching the #MyMusicMindMatters campaign and announcing our diverse range of partnerships, HMUK continues to keep mental health high on the agenda, raise awareness of the support available and encourage positive and lasting change,” says interim HMUK CEO James Ainscough. “Through our holistic programme of support, HMUK continues to make a difference to the lives of our beneficiaries by helping to build a sustainable future for all within the industry.”
Also marking WMH Day is Music Support, which alongside a 24/7 helpline of its own provides Safe Tents at UK festivals and services including crisis management psychiatric assessment and signposting.
Artist manager Matt Thomas, who founded Music Support alongside production manager Andy Franks, today spoke on mental health and addiction at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) in London, part of a programme that also includes HMUK’s health and welfare officer, Aidan Culley, Mind counsellor Skye Blythe-Whitelock and musician-turned-counsellor John O’Reilly:
Matt Thomas, founding trustee, will be down at @BIMMLondon today to talk about mental health and addiction in the music industry, how to spot it, how to prevent it and most importantly, how to help each other. Make sure you pop down between 1pm and 2pm#WorldMentalHealthDay pic.twitter.com/veyL4p5CZn
— Music Support (@Musicsupport_uk) October 10, 2018
In the festival world, meanwhile, the UK’s Association of Independent Festivals is gearing up for next month’s Festival Congress and the Independent Festival Awards 2018.
Among other awards – including an outstanding contribution gong for late Tramlines festival director Sarah Nulty – the Act of Independence prize will be awarded to London’s Meltdown for replacing Frightened Rabbit’s set at the event with a panel on mental health in the music industry following the death of Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison.
Bengi Ünsal, senior contemporary music programmer at festival organiser Southbank Centre, comments: “We are incredibly honoured and humbled to receive this award. After hearing the news of Scott Hutchison’s death, instead of leaving the Queen Elizabeth Hall unprogrammed and keeping the issue in the dark, we wanted to use the space and the platform of Meltdown festival to bring people together and shine a light on the worryingly common issues of mental health across the music industry.
“I am grateful to this year’s curator, Robert Smith, and to the wider Southbank Centre team for making it happen, and to the bravely candid panellists for sharing their experiences.”
Also making a difference are veteran Texan alt-rockers Nothing More, who have partnered on their latest The Truth tour with nonprofit To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), donating US$1 from each ticket sale to the organisation, which helps those struggling with depression or addiction.
“The stigma surrounding mental health deserves to be challenged”
“We’ve seen firsthand how they [Nothing More] empower their fans to embrace things that we believe to be true: that stigma surrounding mental health deserves to be challenged, that your story deserves an audience and that together we can embody a defiant sense of hope,” says TWLOHA’s Chad Moses. “We look forward to standing alongside Nothing More on this journey toward truth.”
Elsewhere, UK performance rights organisation PRS for Music used WMH Day to announce a new mental health initiative for its hundreds of staff. By joining forces with Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA England) to train a group of ‘mental health first-aiders’, PRS says it will be able to provide “support to colleagues on the same basis as physical first-aiders”.
Steve Powell, PRS for Music chief financial officer, says mental health is “a subject of great importance to me personally”. “Today we’ve announced a new mental health and wellbeing initiative that I hope will provide mental wellbeing support to everyone at PRS for Music,” he comments, “and help continue to break down the stigma attached to discussing it.”
Finally, ticket agency Skiddle – whose recent survey discovered staggering levels of anxiety and depression among UK promoters and venue staff – has shared footage of a follow-up panel session at London’s Queen of Hoxton, which discussed the challenges that promoters face and their effects on health, relationships and happiness.
Watch the discussion, which featured HMUK’s Christine Brown, artist-producer Matt Cantor, Claire Cordeaux of the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine and Eugene Wild of Tottenham club the Cause, below: