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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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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.

Under Pressure
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:

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:


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