Achal Dhillon is the MD of Killing Moon; an independent British music company and his recent blog on the untouched topic of Music Industry’s health crisis is revelatory but not surprising as we hear of many instances of self-harm, depression and more increasingly suicide from the industry. Loudest caught up with the entrepreneur to further the topic of how to deal with the mental health crisis plaguing the music industry.
Anchal:A large part of music marketing, particularly now, rests on contemporaneous issues at the time of releases to equate to the general “relevance” of the artist in question, and conversely as far as the music consumer market is concerned, a degree of emotional proximity to those artists commonly resting on those issues.
One way of looking at it, in a positive lens, is that a sympathetic public basking in the overall tragic nature surrounding the artist’s mental health issues, or possibly their suicide band together in an attempt to raise money on the artist’s behalf for some sort of benevolent cause – for example, the sheer amount of charitable activity, albeit largely fan-led rather than business-led per se, following Scott Hutchison’s death early this year can’t be described any other way as positive.
A far more negative way of looking at it is particular rightsholder, say a record label, substantially benefitting in commercial terms due to the empirical surge in streams and sales of master records – and the insinuation therefore that presently, it can be said to a degree that it might not be in that rightsholder’s interests to change the environments or circumstances that may exacerbate an artist’s mental health or addiction issues.
So if it can be conclusively proved that in fact, it is overall in everyone’s interests to keep artists – and I absolutely would extend this to music industry professionals and fans as well – alive and well economically-speaking, I think steps towards reform in this area will have a much smoother ride.
Loudest: How do you think stakeholders can tackle this issue?
The economic expansion and indeed amount of money coursing its way through the music industry since the true advent of DSPs and playlist culture has been felt in the past three years or so is well-documented, so I don’t believe that collectively we can continue to see relief methods applicable to those suffering from mental illnesses as a financial luxury – the money is actually there to treat those concerned as an ongoingly preventative measure, rather than dealing with it when tragedy has befallen an individual, whether artist or industry professional or fan, or worse when it is literally too late and a suicide has taken place.
Loudest: How can this be researched/ executed? Which laws/ clauses can be implied to enable good mental health?
Achal: There are several ongoing studies accredited by various universities around the world that are empirically measuring the environments that various featured artists (who have subsequently committed suicide or otherwise have had an adverse effect on their life via associated mental health issues) have been present in, in an attempt to determine what changes in those environments and other factors, ranging from pre-existing addictions whether known or unknown to, say, financial stresses, and whether there is a correlation between the two. Working out what exactly is either causing these issues or making them worse is the first step.
We already have statistics as to the scale of the problem, particularly where not-famous artists are concerned here in the UK. What seems to be missing recurrently is factually-based clinical information, so my hope is that these university-accredited researches will help in this respect.
From there, I think it can be determined who’s liability it is in fact to ensure the well-being of the subject in question. Should a record label or manager be principally in charge of an artist’s well-being? The employer looking out for the employee, in a similar context? Or should this result in an independent third-party regulatory body to handle, given the sheer scale in conflicts of interests that commonly crop up in dealing with mental health issues?
My overall hope is that we start to view safeguarding the well-being of music industry stakeholders, known to be at risk, in the same way as we do insurance for any given activity, such as touring or equipment.
Loudest: As you’re running Killing Moon which is an agency that manages artists, how do you tackle decisions that can trigger an artists’ mental health? Do you have any rules set in place?
Achal: Towards the artist, we tackle things on a case by case basis by consulting with each other and keep the dialogue open and very clear. Usually this can come into conflict with our commercial interests; however, I’m of the opinion that any of the aforementioned are of no use to me whatsoever if what I’m doing with them is actively making matters worse for them.
We typically enjoy a close personal proximity to the artists that we work with and indeed among the KM staff. In fact, we share such close quarters that we’d actually have to be blind in order to not see a change in circumstance or some kind of upcoming activity having an effect on a particular person in this sense. The general rule is to just put yourself in that person’s position, and just think. They’re people, not assets, and we have to treat each other as such.