Music industry heavyweights from Live Nation, management company Friends at Work and WME along with artists including John Legend, Steve Aoki, MARINA, Grace VanderWaal and Rick Springfield, are banding together to launch Tour Support, a new nonprofit program providing mental health support for the touring community.
Tour Support lives as a new division of LightHopeLife, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit suicide prevention and awareness foundation. According to an announcement, Tour Support was launched in recognition “that the music world is experiencing a mental health crisis among touring professionals, most acutely evidenced by an alarming number of suicides. … Many are in need of support services to help them deal with difficult feelings surrounding life on the road and the changes they face once they get home.”
Indeed, recent years have seen musicians like Linkin Park’s Chester Beddingfield, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell (pictured), indie artist David Berman and guitarist Neal Casal take their own lives.
The genesis for Tour Support came from Steve Richards, an executive producer with Original Syndicate and former touring professional, who has lost more than ten friends and colleagues to suicide in the last two years. Richards partnered with Friends At Work, headed by Variety 2019 Power of Women Impact List honoree Ty Stiklorius, who said, “I was deeply struck by the recent deaths of Chris Cornell, guitarist Neal Casal and the dozens of touring staff we have tragically lost. This is a first step to provide resources, trainings and counseling opportunities to ultimately change the culture on the road.” The Friends at Work team was impressed with the trainings, passion and understanding of the Music Industry from LightHopeLife and partnered together to form the new organization.
Added LightHopeLife founder and CEO, Michael Rexford, a music partner at the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips: “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.”
Live Nation Entertainment helped kick start the program with a sizable donation. “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,” said CEO and President Michael 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 in providing new resources for mental health and wellness for the behind-the-scenes heroes who make it all happen.”
Said Rick Springfield, an outspoken advocate for mental health awareness: “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.”
Vicky Cornell, Chris Cornell’s widow, has also partnered with Tour Support personally and with the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation. “Losing Chris has been the single most devastating experience in my family’s life,” she said. “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. … “Chris’s death was tragic and what makes it more so is that it was completely preventable. 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.”
Steve Aoki noted that he’s 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 endorsing the Tour Support organization include: Ludacris, Lindsey Stirling, Hobo Johnson, The National, AJR, Raphael Saadiq, Sofi Tukker, Jake Shears, My Morning Jacket, José González, Kevin Morby, Caitlyn Smith, Pink Martini, Cut Copy, Stars, Frawley, Speelberg, Eddie Berman and Katell Keineg.