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Touring and mental health manual launched

Full details have been revealed of psychotherapist and ex-booker Tamsin Embleton’s new book, Touring and Mental Health – The Music Industry Manual.

Edited by Embleton and published by Omnibus Press on 23 March, the book will help musicians and those working in live music to identify, process and manage the physical and psychological difficulties that can occur on the road or as a result of touring.

Topics covered include: emotional intelligence, depression, trauma, crisis management, anger and conflict, stress, addiction (substance & process; sex & porn), eating disorders, anxiety (performance; flight; general), group dynamics, mindset, exercise, physical health (hearing; vocal; sexual; general), optimal performance, dealing with the media, diversity and inclusion, romantic relationships, nutrition, sleep science, breathwork, meditation, duty of care, mental capacity, psychological safety and post-tour recovery.

Touring and Mental Health – The Music Industry Manual is written by health and performing arts medicine professionals to provide robust clinical advice, cutting edge research, practical strategies and valuable resources.

Each chapter is also underpinned with personal recollections from artists and professionals

Each chapter is also underpinned with personal recollections from artists and professionals including Nile Rodgers, Justin Hawkins, Philip Selway, Charles Thompson, Katie Melua, Kieran Hebden, Jake Berry, Tina Farris, Taylor Hanson, Trevor Williams, Lauren Mayberry, Pharoahe Monch, Jim Digby, Will Young, Angie Warner and Dale ‘Opie’ Skjerseth, among others.

Embleton is an attachment-based psychoanalytic psychotherapist based in London and is the founder of the Music Industry Therapist Collective (MITC): a global group of specialist clinicians who combine their experience of working in music prior to retraining as clinicians. She also consults for a variety of entertainment companies and charities.

Previously, Embleton worked as a booker for the Mean Fiddler Group, Killer B Music, Standon Calling Festival and Metropolis Studios, in addition to working in artist and tour management and as a grants advisor for the PRS Foundation.

Last year, she told IQ how the industry can better protect its artists following a spate of tour cancellations due to mental health concerns.

Click here to pre-order the book. The following discount codes are available for IQ readers: 4GXJRMTW5QGA (20%) / 7XQYQQR13AZS (25% – min 5 copies).

 


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Tamsin Embleton: ‘We need to reimagine the way we tour’

The last few months have seen an unprecedented number of artists pull the plug on tours, citing the detrimental impact of touring on mental health.

SantigoldArlo ParksShawn MendesSam Fender, Russ, Wet Leg and Disclosure are just a handful of artists who scrapped outings, with many referencing the gruelling reality of touring via public statements.

Tamsin Embleton, a psychotherapist and the director of Music Industry Therapists Collective (MITC), called the mental health crisis in the artist community “startlingly widespread” but says many mental health crises are preventable.

In advance of the publication of her new book, ‘Touring and Mental Health, The Music Industry Manual‘ (due 23 March 2023), Embleton shares tips for identifying and coping with the various psychological difficulties that can occur during or as a result of touring.

 


What’s leading the rise in the number of tour cancellations due to mental health?
As my fellow MITC therapist Jodi Milstein points out, burnouts, breakdowns and relapses have always happened on tour but we used to use euphemisms for it, like ‘exhaustion’. Researchers in the UK and the US have been waving the red flag about the vast number of artists who suffer psychological difficulties when working in the music business since the 1980s, but it’s taken the latest wave of research around six years ago headed up by a paper from Gross and Musgrave and Help Musicians to catalyse substantial change in the industry.

Attitudes have changed a lot since the 80s. We have a greater mental health literacy so there’s less need for euphemism. This is partly down to wider societal trends but also thanks to artists who have publicly disclosed their struggles in the press. This encourages others to reflect, identify problems and seek help. Teams need to be careful that they don’t view an artist’s mental health difficulties as their USP though. Discussing sensitive issues in the press can be distressing – if it happens too early in recovery it can set progress back. And, of course, once it’s out there, it’s out there, and might be probed for years to come. Artists need support in figuring out what they feel comfortable disclosing, what is just theirs and what should remain private.

Touring is intensively stressful from a biological, psychological and social perspective. Stress accumulates on the road – and as it does so it degrades mindset, morale, optimism, tolerance, immunity and every system in the body. It makes it hard to get restorative sleep, and so the cycle continues. Some artists are sent out on the road with schedules they aren’t physically and psychologically able to withstand. Chronic stress can create psychological and physical problems and can exacerbate pre-existing conditions.

For some touring professionals and artists who were grounded during the pandemic, their capacities have changed for better and worse. There might be more awareness of the hidden costs of touring in terms of mental, physical and relational health. The pandemic meant lost earnings and opportunities for many, and there are other issues (low streaming revenue, inflation, the weak pound etc), adding financial pressure and resulting in extra dates being added.

“Touring is a high-stress situation where environmental conditions expose you to rely on unhealthy coping strategies”

What kinds of mental health issues are touring artists prone to currently?
Depression, anxiety (general, performance, social, flight), addiction, dependency and substance misuse problems (alcohol and substance, sex, porn), stress and burnouts, mental health crises (psychosis, self-harm, etc), conflict and anger management difficulties, eating disorders… the list goes on. Touring is a high-stress situation where environmental conditions are changeable and challenging, and the touring lifestyle encourages you to rely on unhealthy coping strategies such as excessive alcohol drinking, indulgent food, smoking, illicit substances, sex etc.

What causes these issues – where are the pressure points?
Touring is stressful to mind, brain, body and relationships. Firstly it takes you away from the people and practices that usually keep you stable (maintaining relationships at home is hard when you are physically and psychologically in different places). You are constantly thrust into unfamiliar spaces like venues and hotels which can be a source of stress in itself. Then the pressure is ramped up – to meet the expectations of a wide number of people (audiences, teams, press, local crews etc). You’re always ‘on’ – expected to deliver to exceptionally high standards night after night, no matter what role you’re in – and that’s hard to maintain.

There are great soaring highs (when performances go well) swiftly followed by lows – a rollercoaster people are rarely adequately prepared for. It starts off as very exciting, but as Nile Rodgers said to me it can be gruelling. The stress levels make it hard to get good quality, restorative sleep and exhaustion add to the cumulative stress. It’s hard to switch off when you’re always gearing up for the next show, which makes it hard to be present and enjoy your surroundings. There’s very little privacy and solitude. Often people talk about loneliness on the road, which is about not feeling connected to people or understood.

“Record labels, managers, and promoters have a duty of care toward artist”

Who is responsible for an artist’s mental health?
The artist has personal responsibility towards their own health and their teams have a duty of care towards their health too. A duty of care is the legal duty of people in positions of trust, power or authority to exercise reasonable care toward those they manage or assume responsibility for. It protects the health, safety and welfare of clients and employees while they carry out their work duties. So, record labels, managers, and promoters have a duty of care toward artists (i.e. anyone who employs the artist to fulfil work, or those who are employed by the artist to make career decisions on their behalf). Artists also have a duty of care toward their touring parties and managers.

Are there more services that artists and crew can reach out to now?
Greater numbers of artists and music industry workers are recognising that they need support and reaching for help. We have many excellent services and charities in the UK serving the community – Help Musicians UK, Music Support, BAPAM, Music Industry Therapist Collective (MITC), Tonic Rider, and grants available from PRS for Music fund, Royal Society of Musicians, StageHand (run by PSA) and others. Majors like Sony, Warners and Universal are offering greater levels of support. There’s a huge number of passionate, highly skilled people working to change things for the better.

“I think all artists could benefit from mentorship and coaching”

How can touring be made sustainable for artists?
That’s a big question and not one that’s easy to answer succinctly! We do need to reimagine the way that people tour. It’s not one-size fits all – capacities vary. Some people are more vulnerable than others.

Some changes can be implemented for free with a little bit of effort like providing ‘dry’ (alcohol free) dressing rooms, signposting to specialist mental health services, local 12-step meetings, green spaces, sports facilities, and ring-fencing time so that they are able to meet with therapists, coaches or sponsors. Others, such as changing the schedule and having sensible routing, have cost implications and raise questions about who pays for the shortfall. There’s a chapter in [‘Touring and Mental Health, The Music Industry Manual’] that addresses this.

What kind of support should artists be provided with?
It depends on what they’re dealing with but it’s helpful to set off feeling prepared. Adequate rehearsal time helps people feel a sense of mastery over the repertoire (which in turn can reduce performance anxiety).

Depending on the individual they might need to visit their GP or psychiatrist for a medication review ahead of the tour. I think all artists could benefit from mentorship and coaching, whether that’s ADHD coaching, vocal or performance training or career coaching. Skills building through psychoeducation, developing an understanding of mind-body connections and finding healthy ways to relax such as self-hypnosis for performance anxiety, meditation and mindfulness etc is important too, which is why we have tried to cover as many bases as possible in the book with chapters on all of these topics.

Then there are a number of psychological therapies that can help people to intercept unhelpful thought patterns, or reflect on their self-perception, formative past experiences and relational dynamics. Artists need to understand the risks to mind and body (including RSI, vocal strain issues like nodules, hearing issues etc) and have the right equipment, such as custom-fitted ear plugs or noise-cancelling headphones for those who struggle with sensory overload.

“We have to be flexible and anticipate life transitions that might cause stress or mean people need to adjust their way of working”

What do artist teams need to remember about artists and their mental health?
Even with the very best of intentions, over-functioning fosters dependency and reduces resilience and tolerance (think: helicopter parents). Try not to dismiss protests or expressions of suffering (verbally or musically) – it means something, so take it seriously. Educate yourself on the warning signs of poor mental health and illness. Think: prevention rather than cure or crisis response.

The industry is highly stressful, and the artists you work with will need to find ways to vent, blow off steam and make sense of it all. Encourage healthy behaviours and model self-care. Put in boundaries around communication and when some time is blocked off in the diary, don’t tempt the artist into working during their time off. It’s important they (and you) have some semblance of a life, and relationships outside of work. Social support is a vital source of stress relief throughout life, so we should try to help people stay connected to loved ones whilst out on the road.

Pre-order ‘Touring and Mental Health, The Music Industry Manual’ here. Contact David Stock for bulk buys: [email protected]

 


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IFF puts finishing touches to biggest programme yet

The Interactive Festival Forum (iFF) has announced two Soapbox Sessions panels for the event taking place on 2 and 3 September.

The first 55-minute session will invite five industry experts to deliver quick-fire presentations on a range of specialist topics including agency roster analysis, socially distanced events and mental health.

Soapbox Sessions: Five in 55 will see ROSTR co-founder and CEO, Mark Williamson, present highlights from an analysis of 650+ agency rosters with ROSTR: The Agency World in Numbers.

Deer Shed director and AIF member Kate Webster will deliver a Soapbox Session on Deer Shed Basecamp, the festival’s socially distanced, sold-out camping weekender with AIF presents: Touching Base.

Tim O’Brien – professor at Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester (the site of AIF member festival Bluedot) – will reprise a much-loved talk from a previous AIF Festival Congress with AIF presents: Sounds of Space.

Geoff Dixon will present exclusive new research on festivalgoers’ confidence about returning to live events over the next 12 months

In Soapbox Session Covid-19: You Are Here, Dr Mark Salter, consultant for global health at Public Health England, will update delegates on the latest international developments in the fight against Covid-19, including the search for a vaccine, as well as how public health authorities are planning for the months ahead.

Finally, Getting Back to Work: The Fan’s Perspective Vivid Interface will hear Geoff Dixon present exclusive new research on festivalgoers’ confidence about returning to live events over the next 12 months.

Another new addition to the conference schedule is The Lost Causes, a series of presentations from specialists covering diversity, accessibility, and mental health and welfare.

Attitude Is Everything‘s Gideon Feldman will deliver Accessibility: Building Back Better, Keychange‘s Francine Gorman will present Equality: Representation Matters and festival booker-turned-psychotherapist Tamsin Embleton will educate delegates on Mental Health: Minding the Gap.

Today’s announcement follows the news that CAA board member and London co-head Emma Banks, Paradigm’s head of global music, Marty Diamond, and FKP Scorpio MD Folkert Koopmans are joining the conference.

With just over one week to go until iFF, and with passes increasing in price on 1 September, secure your place and save money by registering here. Tickets are still just £50 inc. ALL fees.

 


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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

 


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