stay SOUND & CHECK yourself

Business insider Holger Jan Schmidt takes psychologist Prof. Dr. Katja Ehrenberg behind the scenes of the European live music, festival and event sector. Together with their inspiring interview partners, they turn the spotlights on the people behind the stages. This book is an in-depth feature of personal insights on stress and mental health in an industry that never sleeps, enriched by background information on the issue as well as suggestions for prevention and intervention. It also reports on the unprecedented challenges during the pandemic for what is usually a very lively scene which suddenly had to pause for an uncertain time. “stay SOUND & CHECK yourself” is intended to help ensure a better understanding and the appropriate attention to a topic that has a decisive influence on the success and creativity of the entire industry. It is dedicated to the innumerable people who you normally cannot see, but without whom the stars could never shine on stage.

Official (digital) release event: ESNS 2021, Thur. January 14th, 14:00h CET

Putting on huge cultural events, being creative in making things happen, meeting the stars and living an alternative lifestyle is in one way most desirable and appealing. In another way, a look behind the scenes shows that working in the live music industry requires an unusual level of commitment, comes with extreme pressure and often poor pay. Many employees and freelancers have personal experiences with mental health issues. As one interviewee put it, “for every Avicii or Keith Flint, there are a thousand promoters or cable guys who have a similar problem”. They remain mostly invisible, though without them, no one would shine on stage. The psychological effects of such demanding yet fulfilling working conditions are as manifold as the people featured in this book. From 23-year-old Belgian-born PR professional working in Slovenia, Polish hub initiator and musician in his thirties to international major festival directors and 60-year-old scene veteran from Switzerland, the 15 insider interviewees represent the diversity of the scene in terms of age, gender, region, and position, including experts for special issues related to the topic.

Over 20 hours of very personal talk are framed by professional background information on stress and mental health at work and effective suggestions for prevention and intervention as well as links to further free resources on the issue. The individual interviews were conducted during autumn and winter 2019/2020 and illustrate the “old normal” in times we now refer to as before the pandemic. The picture is complemented by three group sessions held during summer 2020, where the interview partners got together and exchanged their thoughts and feelings on risks and opportunities of recent events for the sector. Thereby, a contemporary historical document has been created somewhat incidentally.

Both the individual interviews and the group discussions show: All interviewees share similar experiences of what they find deeply rewarding and what they find stressful in their work. Almost all of them know mental crises, depression or anxieties. As another interviewee put it, “the passion and the burnout go hand in hand”. The insights derived from all these personal stories are interesting not only to those working in the sector, but also to everybody who loves live music and cultural events. Moreover, parallels may be drawn to other fields with similar working conditions and characterized by a high proportion of freelancers, seasonal or precarious employment, and volunteers.

How much culture and sharing cultural experiences matters to human mental well-being became painfully obvious over the last weeks and months. Mental well-being of those who create music and arts and provide it with a stage is therefore key to keeping up individual and societies’ spirits. The hopefully approaching day the sector will re-open, people in the creative sector are urgently needed again. Prevention and support tailored to their needs should therefore be on top of the agenda.

About the book:

284 pages | softcover | DIN A4 | ISBN 978-3-947759-62-0 | Book on Demand by KID Verlag. It includes many b/w photos by Svenja Klemp and Holger Jan Schmidt showing the world of festivals, concerts and tours from an inside perspective. Cover photo by Svenja Klemp.

stay SOUND & CHECK yourself can now be ordered at your local book shop as well as online. Please search your favorite online store – it should be available anywhere. Here are some international order links:

Austria | Denmark | Finland | France | Germany | Hungary | Italy | Lithuania | The Netherlands | Poland | Slovakia | Spain | Sweden | Switzerland  | UK

All author profits from book sales will be reinvested to projects promoting visibility of the issue and building prevention and intervention tools. The authors wish to thank YOUROPE – The European Festival Association and Fresenius University of Applied Sciences (Business and Media Faculty) for their support of the project.

  • Foto: Svenja Klemp