On The Record: Blue Rhythm’s founder Alexandra speaks to us about mental health in music


Hi, could you tell us a little bit about Blue Rhythm’s mission?

Hi, first of all, thanks for having us! 

Blue Rhythm exists to provide the infrastructure necessary to offer accessible, high quality, and confidential mental health and substance use support to individuals and organisations across the music industry. 

We center all of our work around three Core Values: 

  1. Create a Mentality Centered Around Sustainability
  2. Establish Long-Term Health and Well-Being as a Priority
  3. Prevent the Loss of Artists

Our platform allows artists to receive anonymous support, designed specifically for the music industry. Blue Rhythm coaches pre-vetted, accredited therapists who are not only accomplished in their fields, but who understand and have experienced the creative industries for themselves. 

What experience do you have as an individual within the music industry?

Growing up substance abuse and mental health wasn’t something that was talked about, but nonetheless it had its effect. I lost a lot of years with my father due to addiction, and it’s made me the person I am today. I started out in the music industry at 15. Since then I have worked across agencies, events, management and venues in Dallas, TX, New York City, Scotland, and London. I knew I wanted to continue to help and represent music artists, although I started observing a reliance on substances as solutions that mirrored much of my childhood. That was enough to get me started on Blue Rhythm. Working at the intersection of music and mental health is based both on my personal and professional experiences, which lends a unique perspective when designing services and resources for an industry which faces issues around mental health and addiction at disproportionately higher rates than the general population.

What separates Blue Rhythm from other mental health in music organisations?

There isn’t an easy solution for labels, management, or agencies to implement wide-scale support, and there’s no HR equivalent for artists. The music industry needs support that is designed, and tailor-made to address obstacles and issues artists face throughout their career in music, with people who have experienced it for themselves. That level of mutual understanding is vital. Otherwise there can be a disconnect where the individual tasked with supporting the artist doesn’t understand their passions, the inner workings of the industry, or why they are doing what they do, which means that the support is not going to be as effective. Just as if you want to work in music you need to learn how the ecosystem functions, if you want to help the industry, you need to have that foundation of understanding and insight. We believe the industry is lacking a solution to a problem, and we’re here to provide that.

When it comes to mental health we’ve learned that there is a need for flexible solutions. There’s a need for spaces where everyone can come and feel comfortable. By that we mean things like guaranteeing anonymity, recognising the need for proactive support as well as reactionary support. Most importantly, we have learned that no two individuals are the same, everyone is defined by individual experience, meaning that mental health is complex and in need of support that caters to all situations. At the same time, therapy/mental health can often feel quite archaic. It can appear “clinicy”, which we feel sometimes alienates rather than embraces. Our objective is to rebuild the traditional approach to therapy, open it up, create a narrative around ourselves and our company that makes artists and the industry comfortable, view therapy as approachable and accessible. 

Where do you think the responsibility lies for artist welfare within the industry?

Ultimately, because of the complexity of the music industry, artist welfare becomes a shared responsibility. So, whose responsibility is it? Well, we’ve learned the answer isn’t straightforward, and is the primary contributing factor to the lack of actual support made available. What happens when an artist has everything on hand to make their music successful, but nothing to take care of themselves? At Blue Rhythm we assert that every stakeholder is better served if the artist receives proactive support. To us, it is worthwhile flipping the question on its head, from ‘whose responsibility is this?’, to: what can we do to proactively create the best possible foundation for our artists, to sustainably grow, create, and perform at the highest level? 

How do you select your coaches?

Selecting coaches starts with our team researching therapists, identifying individuals we feel could be a potential fit for Blue Rhythm. Following that research stage, we reach out and introduce ourselves and propose the idea of bringing them on as a Blue Rhythm coach. If a candidate is interested, we initiate a series of interviews. First we sit down with the individual for an initial evaluation. This is designed to get a feel for the person, learn about their experience within the creative industries, and listen to their motivations for becoming mental health professionals. At this point we want to determine if the professional is both in line with our mission and value at Blue Rhythm, and has both the industry and educational experience for the role. If we decide to move forward, our head assessor conducts a technical interview, which dives into the exact education, qualifications, accreditations, working methods and so on. The idea here is for our assessor to evaluate the therapist, how they operate, interact with clients, and assess the suitability of the professional. 

Based on the assessor’s recommendation and discussion with our team, we decide whether or not to move forward. If we feel the candidate is a good fit, we progress to the vetting process, where a thorough background check is conducted on the candidate. This is to ensure everything we have come to learn about the individual is correct and valid. 

Finally, we sit down with the candidate and go through the legal bit, particularly abiding by the BACP standards of ethics, increased measures for anonymity and confidentiality, followed by training to onboard them as a Blue Rhythm coach. 

Do you believe that there are acute issues within the music industry that aren’t currently being taken seriously enough?

When we look specifically at the music industry, we observe musicians as an underserved community, with no HR, no tangible tools to support their mental state on the road ahead, rather tools geared to make them successful, but we need to prepare them for what’s to come, artists more comprehensive solutions than those currently available. 

Throughout this past year we have seen conversations surrounding mental health only become more mainstream. As a result of COVID, all of us, in some form or another, have experienced feelings of loneliness, stress, panic, or restlessness, and these are all things artists can face on a daily basis. The life of an artist can be very isolating and I think, if anything, it’s important to highlight this shared, lived experience we’ve had, particularly for people who have never experienced mental health issues, or really paid much mind to it.

The acute issues which remain relate directly to the lack of proactive support being implemented on a structural level, but this also ties into what is available. Artist representative organisations should realise there is a lot to be gained, for all stakeholders, by providing support. Real value can be created by doing so, both for the individual and the organisation. As it stands, there isn’t a trusted, scalable solution for organisations to provide support by themselves. This is essentially why we are here: to close that gap, create a streamlined means for organisations to support artists at any stage in their career.  

What changes would you like to see this year?

The music industry is a complex ecosystem and our goal is to set a new standard: make resources such as mental health and substance use support readily available. We don’t expect this to happen overnight, but we can drive progress. It is important to remain realistic and aware of the fact that to set such a standard – flexible, trusted support needs to exist.

In that regard, we would of course like to see organisations not only embracing artist mental health support, but providing it. 

How can people get involved?

  1. Anonymous Artist Insight: if you’re an artist reading this, we’d love to hear from you! Whether it is to share your experience, or thoughts about what you would like to see in a service such as Blue Rhythm. We are a platform designed for artists, and part of that is allowing artists to have a say in this design. 
  2. I think there are fantastic initiatives that continue to prioritise keeping mental health at the centre of the conversation. At the same time, artists are still going without support, so to spark a change in the industry we need to work together to set a new standard of care an artist is provided with. For now, it’s about stakeholders seeing the value that can be achieved through mental health support, and for those early adopters to take the jump first.

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