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News June 3, 2020

Assn. of Artist Managers & Support Act unveil mental health program Gimme Shelter: Exclusive

Senior Journalist, B2B
Assn. of Artist Managers & Support Act unveil mental health program Gimme Shelter: Exclusive

Hang on, help is on its way.

From June 15, Australia’s artist managers will have access to a new, early intervention mental health program, custom built for the music industry.

Taking its name from the classic 1969 Rolling Stones song, Gimme Shelter is an initiative of The Association of Artist Managers (AAM), the national trade association for artist managers, and Support Act, the charity that provides crisis relief services to artist crew and workers.

Its mission: to target and restore mental health, resilience and wellness in this most challenging of vocations.

Developed by the AAM and delivered with assistance from Support Act and the federal government, Gimme Shelter 2020/21 will be delivered as an online program for managers and their artists.

support-act-logo 2018

Support Act

The coursework includes Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), gaining a three-year accreditation facilitated by Rumpus; creative health and resilience with psychologist Dr Chris Stevens; conflict resolution and management training with Reboot Resolve; and wellness and mindfulness with AccessEAP.

“We have been excited by the potential for this program to positively impact the mental health and wellbeing of artist managers and their artists since reading the evaluation of the pilot from last year,” comments Clive Miller, CEO of Support Act, which in April landed a $10 million funding boost from the government.

The new program can train up to roughly 70% of AAM’s membership of more than 300 active artist managers. It’s anticipated the flow-on could benefit more than 800 artists.  

Gimme Shelter “promises to be a real game changer when it comes to how mental health and well-being are perceived and managed in the music community,” Miller adds.

The program, announced Wednesday (June 3), follows a pilot presented last year by Creative Victoria and attended in-person by 13 Victorian managers.

One of those artist managers was Alastair Burns, who guides the career of Julia Jacklin.

Julia Jacklin

“I went to the Gimme Shelter course having just returned from Europe, and one of the most difficult months of my career in terms of my mental health,” recounts Burns, who has been honoured by his peers on several occasions, including wins for Breakthrough Manager and International Achievement Award at the MMF Music Manager’s Awards in New Zealand and Recorded Music Manager of the Year.

“The timing couldn’t have been better to join a group of my management peers, all sharing their struggles with their own mental health, and the challenges of the job,” he continues. 

Those 13 managers shared observations, a “cathartic” experience, notes Burns.

Together, they took part in an “invaluable” mental health first aid course, and spent days talking with a psychologist and conflict management expert who had an understanding of the music industry.

The course, Burns tells TIO, “helped me shift from the narrow view of my day to day challenges, to a wide view of the landscape I operate in and to see how the mental health of all the people involved in my business impacts every element of my experience.”

Through the program, Burns helped re-prioritise, by “placing the mental health of my artists, team and myself as the top priority in the way we approach our business. I now believe that addressing and prioritising mental health is the starting point, and from there, all the goals and ambitions for our career will naturally flow.”

TIO caught up with Cath Haridy, Executive Director of the AAM, for a closer look at the holistic new program.

catherine haridy management press shot

TIO: How does someone qualify for the programme?

Cath Haridy: We hope to deliver this to just over 190 artist managers.

The timing for this announcement seems perfect. Obviously the COVID-19 crisis and shutdown has wrecked so many livelihoods. Artist managers are utterly exposed. Has the AAM noticed a rise in mental health problems reported by its members or on behalf of their artists in recent months.

We completed a comprehensive membership survey earlier this year before COVID-19. At that time, nearly half of the membership responded and one of the most stark and maybe surprising figures to emerge was that over 85% of those artist manager respondents have been affected by mental health issues.

When you marry these with the figures from a number of Australian and international research projects around artist’s mental health challenges, it’s clear we have some real world issues to address and we’re endeavoring to do that with Gimme Shelter.

We also know from our survey and anecdotally that anxiety, stress, career sustainability and income uncertainty are clear issues for a great number of our community.

Post-COVID-19, we know all these challenges are only becoming more prevalent.

Do you anticipate the majority of managers who take on this program will do so so they’re better equipped to guide their artists in tough times?

The hope is that artist managers are better skilled in a holistic sense to cope with and recognise the many mental health challenges that we face in the music sector and to build a comprehensive “tool kit” to combat those challenges both for themselves and their artists. Taking artists managers through a program such as this is healthy for the whole music ecosystem.

The Mental Health First Aid component will help participants recognise and be able to direct an artist at that crucial point in a developing a mental health challenge.

Psychologist Dr Chris Stevens will talk about creative health and resilience, delivering tools that will help managers working with different creative personalities and enhancing their resilience.

Crucial conflict management and resolution training builds important skills in identifying the causes of conflict and how we make sense of challenging situations to approach them effectively and finally, learning important techniques in mindfulness and wellness to help keep us collectively centred.

Was this programme made possible by the $10 million funding package for Support Act announced by the federal government in April?

Yes, this has been delivered thanks to that funding package and the great belief in the program from both the AAM and Support Act Boards and teams.

It’s been a long-time dream to deliver a program of this calibre on this level.

Managers are time poor. How many contact hours a week will this program require?

Around two contact hours a week in under three months with a mixture of virtual live workshops, webinars and course materials for participants to reference forever.

Our Professional Development Manager Trina Massey has worked tirelessly to repurpose a pre-COVID program design for a post-COVID community.

We couldn’t be more committed to delivering this. We know it’s going to make a difference to many lives.

Gimme Shelter registration is open to all AAM members from Monday June 15.  For more visit www.aam.org.au.

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.

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