Tour Support will offer critical resources to promote mental wellness in the live music business
Today on World Mental Health Day the music industry has a new nonprofit program tackling the most critical needs of its artists, crews and vendors with the official launch of Tour Support, a program that provides mental health support for the touring community.
Industry organizations including Live Nation, Friends at Work and WME are behind the initial launch, and artists including John Legend, Steve Aoki, MARINA, Grace VanderWaal and Rick Springfield are lending their names to endorse Tour Support.
Tour Support is a new division of LightHopeLife, a nonprofit suicide prevention and awareness foundation, recognizing that the music world is experiencing a mental health crisis among touring professionals, evidenced by an alarming number of suicides in recent years.
The initial idea for Tour Support came from Steve Richards, an executive producer with Original Syndicate and former touring professional. Having lost more than ten friends and colleagues to suicide in the last two years, Richards believed it was time for tangible solutions to provide tools for people while on the road so they have resources when the tour ends and the challenges of returning home can be overwhelming.
Richards partnered with management, entertainment, and social impact company, Friends At Work, whose founder and chief executive Ty Stiklorius said in a statement provided to Billboard “I was deeply struck by the recent deaths of Chris Cornell, guitarist Neal Casal and the dozens of touring staff we have tragically lost,” Stiklorius says. “This is a first step to provide resources, trainings and counseling opportunities to ultimately change the culture on the road.”
LightHopeLife founder and chief executive Michael Rexford, also music partner at the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, adds “Mental illness has long been relegated to the dark, unseen recesses of society, and isolation is the worst thing that someone who is struggling with feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and any number of other troubling feelings or conditions can experience, which only exacerbates the underlying problems. My own experience with suicidal ideation, combined with my longstanding involvement in the music industry and my time as a volunteer suicide prevention crisis line counselor, made it clear to me that I was uniquely positioned to bring a level of attention and impact to this crushing problem.”
Ahead of today’s launch, the world’s leading live entertainment company, Live Nation, signed on to support the new program and made a matching donation to fund the first year of the program.
“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 Live Nation Entertainment president/CEO Michael Rapino says. “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 in providing new resources for mental health and wellness for the behind-the-scenes heroes who make it all happen.”
In addition, Vicky Cornell, wife of Chris Cornell, has come on board to partner with Tour Support personally and with the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation. Vicky says, “Losing Chris has been the single most devastating experience in my family’s life. Tragically, there are countless stories like this, but we only hear about the famous ones. The music community has lost far too many. We must promote and prioritize mental health and wellness and creating a real support system on the road is critical. Intervention is prevention.”
The tragic nature of Chris Cornell’s death “makes it more so is that it was completely preventable,” she added. “Tour Support’s trainings and resources will specifically help support the music community that Chris will always be a part of. I’m honored to be a part of their efforts to raise awareness, educate and support our extended families on the road.”
Springfield, an outspoken advocate for mental health awareness, added, “Being on the road is like going to war. Except people send love instead of bullets your way. You’d think we’d have no excuse for being depressed. But it happens. Isolation, being away from family, alcohol abuse. All take its toll. Artists hope to bring joy to their audiences but sometimes it has the reverse effect on the artist. Tour Support will make a big difference.”
Musician, DJ, record producer and music executive Steve Aoki says, “I’m constantly on the road playing over 250 shows a year, sometimes multiple in one day. The mental and physical strain that this has on myself and my team can’t be understated. And it takes more than just eating right and exercising to combat this. It takes a support system. A real network for all of us to turn to when we feel like we have nowhere to go, and I’m so grateful to be a part of an initiative that is doing something to be there to help us all.”
Artists, roadies and other touring personnel alike have been sharing their experiences and feelings about the mental health crises they’ve witnessed firsthand in the Tour Support’s launch video.
WME and Speakable are also providing assistance to Tour Support and recognize the relevance of Tour Support’s mission to their own businesses and the entertainment world at large.
Tour Support’s first initiative will be a partnership with BetterHelp, the world’s leading online therapy organization. BetterHelp: Tour Support allows tours and vendors to purchase a plan that makes professional counseling available anytime, anywhere, via text, phone or video chat to everyone in their organization. To make sure these new services are accessible for all, BetterHelp has gifted $250,000 worth of services to new and independent artists.
“Online counseling 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 Alon Matas, founder and president of BetterHelp. “Tour Support’s initiative can be life-changing for so many people, and it aligns perfectly with our mission to make professional counseling accessible anytime, anywhere. We’re proud and excited to partner with an organization that proactively addresses the mental health needs of their industry.”
More information about the plan can be found at: lighthopelife.org/tour-support.