Workshop: Mental health
Hosts: Andy Franks & Matt Thomas, Music Support (UK) | Christophe Sauerwein, iCAAD
The second workshop of the day focused on the epidemic of addiction and mental illness in the live music business.
Opening the session was ex-artist manager Matt Thomas, the co-founder of Music Support, a charity providing help and support for anyone in the UK music industry suffering from alcoholism, addiction and emotional or mental health issues.
He explained the charity connects those in need to volunteer therapists, all of whom have experience working in the music industry, on a 24-hour phoneline. Music Support, he added, is not a “production line,” with “every case treated individually,” and does so without any referral fees, commission or any kind of financial relationships with treatment centres.
Thomas then handed the floor over to Christophe Sauerwein of iCAAD (International Conferences on Addiction and Associated Disorders), who outlined in detail the biology and psychology behind addiction. He explained the difference between addicts and non-addicts: non-addicts want a temporary dopamine boost to feel temporarily non-normal – for example, getting drunk – whereas addicts need a bump in dopamine to feel normal.
He said those working in live entertainment are particularly susceptible to addictive behaviour, as playing live releases dopamine and adrenaline, leading to a depressive crash when the show is over.
Music Support co-founder Andy Franks opened his presentation by saying there is a stigma around discussing mental health in the music industry, with people unwilling or unable to admit they have a problem.
Franks said it wasn’t until he was sacked as Coldplay’s tour manager that he realised he had a drinking problem, and wasn’t sure where to turn to get the help he needed. What Music Support is trying to do, he explained, is to provide a service for people who find themselves in a similar situation in the future.
After opening up the floor to audience questions, veteran music lawyer Alexis Grower suggested labels, agents, managers, promoters and other people involved in artists’ careers should be trained to watch out for the onset of mental problems.
Franks said Music Support had approached major labels about just that but received no response. He suggested mental health just isn’t that high on many people’s list of priorities: “This isn’t a music club. It’s a business, and people are in it to sell records and make money.”
While Music Support is only active in the UK – and “barely [has] the resources to do that!” joked Franks – he said he encourages people in other countries to follow suit.