Executives from the the Music Week Women In Music Roll Of Honour 2020 have spoken about the importance of protecting the mental health of everyone working in the music industry.
This year, the Roll Of Honour was expanded to welcome 24 new inductees, and all 24 have been discussing the music industry and their journeys through it in the magazine and online.
Full interviews with all 24 Roll Of Honour inductees are available for subscribers only here.
Today, we complete our series of Q&As with the second part of the discussion around mental health, as we ask the question, is the music industry doing enough?
“The mental health of execs and artist is being taken much more seriously now than it was a few years ago and I feel like there’s definitely a lot more openness and discussion around it, which is positive. The industry’s response since Covid-19 has been great and they have worked hard to provide safety nets with resources, financial assistance, access to mental health support, flexible approaches to working and childcare but as always more can be done. Burn-out is a real issue for young execs and artists and working in such an always on industry can take its toll so with all the positive steps being taken I’m hoping to see a cultural shift with regards to this in the years to come. For artists, social media can also have a big effect on their mental health and, as much as we try to encourage our artists to be responsible with their usage and take breaks when needed, there’s still work to be done to change the reality of trolling and negativity that exists online.”
Lauren Brennan, producer, music team, BBC Radio 6 Music
“I’m very lucky to work for the BBC, which has always been supportive of its staff’s wellbeing, even more so during this challenging year. The next 12 months in particular will be crucial for labels in supporting the mental health of artists as they try to sustain themselves financially through what will undoubtedly be a very difficult time. I know 6 Music is keen to continue to offer an outlet for artist’s creativity and to try to support the live sector where we can to offer artists encouragement during this situation.”
Jackie Davidson MBE, founder, JD Management
“In order to come up with the most effective framework for protecting the mental health of individuals, our government must work alongside the people sitting in senior positions, or on the boards for various organisations within each sector of the economy, to discuss the necessities of each industry, including music and the arts on a wider scale.”
Erica Day, head of inventory and logistics, Proper Music Group
“The music business can be a very high-pressured industry to work in. From a personal perspective, it’s crucial we continue bringing awareness to mental health issues and destigmatise them. We need to recognise that issues like anxiety and depression aren’t rare, and often people do not know where to start to seek out help. Aiming to foster supportive and understanding work environments through education should be at the core of protecting each other’s mental health.”
Michelle Escoffery, songwriter and PRS Board Writer Director, PRS for Music
“The short answer is no. The grind culture of ‘pushing through’ and always having to be high performing can be extremely damaging. We need to embrace balance. We cannot give our best if we do not have the opportunity, ability and support to pause, reflect and restore. When we have the chance to recharge our batteries on a regular basis, we are more productive and give a better quality of service and do better business.”
We cannot give our best if we do not have the opportunity to pause, reflect and restore
"Not yet, but there is a definite tide turn. The days of driving home after a 16-hour day are over and the effects on the mental health and personal life of touring personnel are now being recognised and it has become acceptable to talk about them. The establishment of support services specifically for industry people such as Music Minds Matter and the Music Industry Therapists Collective is so important."
Janine Irons MBE, CEO and co-founder, Tomorrow's Warriors
“It’s debatable that enough is being done to support the mental health of the industry workers and the musicians who make the art that the industry relies on. You’d think being involved in music would be the best job in the world (and, for the most part, it is) but the joy inherent in all things music masks the stress that comes from working in an industry that demands so much from its workers on and off the stage, especially now when nobody’s job is secure.
“Although we are certainly seeing well-meaning campaigns and initiatives and work is being done, we know musicians are still suffering. Through the years, we have really seen the transformative effect the Warriors community and sense of belonging our programme provides to our musicians and, through the mentoring and support we give, the positive impact on young minds. It’s been absolutely wonderful to see.
“However, the mental health of musicians has never been more at risk than now, as the government calls musicians ‘unviable’. I can’t think of anything more detrimental to musicians’ mental health than the current climate. It’s maddening and scary. Tomorrow’s Warriors is also a creative producer, programming events, concerts and tours, growing audiences, developing musicians and providing them with vital performance opportunities so they can earn a living. Events are our lifeblood and the pandemic has meant the complete suspension of our events programme. We speak to our musicians every day and hear how much they are struggling to make a living and pay their rent.
“Execs, too, are having a pretty stressful time, trying to find solutions to situations without a precedent against the backdrop of a very uncertain future. Decisions taken now may have a deeply negative impact on artists, colleagues and associates and, longer term, on the wider music scene. Beyond the financial cost of Covid-19 to our industry, there’s a massive human cost being paid in terms of our mental and physical health. Keeping each other safe is going to be more challenging than ever.”
Our musicians are struggling to make a living and pay their rent
Maria May, agent, CAA
“Taking care of your workforce and your artists is part of some of the many cultural changes I would like to see every company adapt to and lots already are. We are an extremely driven bunch and those of us who want to be successful haven’t done it without some real sacrifices to our health and mental well-being. The work hard play hard narrative of the 1990’s has lessened but burn-out is still a very real issue to people who are driving this business. It’s the same for artists, especially DJs with their extensive touring and the additional demands to drive their careers and we have to be extremely mindful to take care of them and make sure that these people have meaningful time off and take proper breaks and realise that in the business of human beings, we need to more human. We all now recognise that taking care of ourselves and each other is a priority not only for business but for living and now this issue is firmly on the agenda and being discussed and talked about. Our industry is rapidly adapting and moving to a more mindful approach when it comes to these issues for its staff and all the artists.”
Sarah ‘Pixie’ Pickering, vice president, creative and co-head of synchronisation, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
“There is always more that can be done. It’s extremely hard to generalise, but compared to where we were 10 years ago, I think there is much more awareness about mental health and the toll that can be taken within the music industry. It's something that has been brought under the spotlight much more recently and this is resulting in positive changes. I've certainly noticed that the challenges of this year have meant we are talking about and monitoring mental health a lot more, and I feel as a company we are doing much more to look after personal well-being.”
Mulika Sannie, SVP, business affairs (lawyer), Kobalt Music Group
"I don't think you can ever do enough to protect the mental health of execs and artists. While mental health is getting a lot more attention than it has in previous years, we still need to ensure that this is being considered at every point within the industry as its easy to keep speeding along and focus on the P&L and lose sight of whether your colleague or that artist is handling things ok or the pressure is getting too much.
“2020 has been a year in which most people's mental health has been impacted in some form because of the global pandemic so we do need to take a step back and ensure three things. Firstly, that there are services readily available for people to use when they feel their mental health is being affected. Secondly, that colleagues and artists feel comfortable to reach out and use such services, and finally, that they know they will receive the support from their peers, labels and publishers."
I don't think you can ever do enough to protect the mental health of execs and artists
Diane Wagg, founder, Deluxxe Management
“Mental health is high on everyone’s agenda now. Covid-19 has also flagged up a serious escalation in problems throughout the industry – especially the live sector – and attracted funding from additional key industry players which is great progress. Mental Health was one of my key focuses as MMF Chair along with training and education for young managers. I’m glad to be a member of the Musician’s Health and Welfare Advisory Board at Help Musicians UK. Music Support is a great initiative as is Jack Williamson’s Music & You organisation. He presented to students at ICMP on the Creative Management Module I led and they loved him!”
Linda Walker, VP, commercial, Warner Music
"We should never believe we are doing enough. If we believe that, we will stop doing more. Now more than ever, our mental health and resilience is being tested to the max. The welfare of both staff and artists is paramount and it’s great to see that this is becoming such a big topic of conversation across the industry. It’s in everyone’s best interest to support and protect each other, not only from a commercial point of view but also from a human one.”
Pictured (L-R): Linda Walker, Michelle Escoffery and Diane Wagg
PHOTO: Louise Haywood-Schiefer