The Music Assistant founder Meenal Odedra has offered advice on how to stay sober during the lockdown.
Odedra's company provides assistance services to small companies and artists, from admin support and project management to social media and events.
In an interview with Music Week, first published in our recent wellbeing special issue, which focused on the ripple-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on physical and mental health, Odedra recommended sobriety and anxiety meet-ups online – and called for industry support.
Read her piece in full below.
"I have the worries that a lot of people in our industry have right now, not knowing when this will end, adapting to change, pressure to ‘keep calm and carry on’. Work-wise, it’s not knowing how this will affect the industry that I know so well and love.
"I started my company The Music Assistant last year and was hoping to expand in Q2. But I’ve had to halt plans, as I’m just not sure how steady the workflow will be.
"On a personal note, I’m so glad to be dealing with this sober. I took six months out in 2019 and that’s when I stopped drinking. When I came back to the industry and set up The Music Assistant, I sought advice from those that I admire, and Gennaro Castaldo at the BPI put me in touch with Music Support. Through Joanne Croxford at Music Support, I’ve been able to meet others who work in the music industry that don’t drink, and it’s been great to ‘find my tribe’.
"It has been interesting to see the level of drink-related social media posts spike at the moment. I totally get that people have different ways of coping with things, and I think I would have coped very differently a few years ago.
"I have anxiety, and so I’m used to worrying about anything and everything. But the heightened anxiety I’ve faced over the last few weeks has driven my normally contained anxiety into overdrive. For example, I had a sleepless night worrying about the school system – why? No idea! But my anxiety wanted something to latch onto.
"I’d love to say I’m adjusting well and doing yoga daily, but I’m open and honest enough to admit that’s not true. As many of us are, I’m taking one day at a time, trying to incorporate mindfulness and meditation in my routine. I’m connecting with people daily and reminding myself that this isn’t forever. I’m not putting additional pressure on myself to learn a new hobby. To get up and show up, be that work or planned video calls with friends, is enough for me.
"As an industry, we’ve taken a massive hit, and I realised that a lot of the anxieties I felt were shared. For freelancers or people who have started their own business, it’s really hard. I set up Music Industry Coffee Breaks along with Joanne Croxford [Music Support/Symbiotic Management], Chris Tait [Passenger Recovery] and Nick Ashton-Hart [Symbiotic Music Management]. It’s an open meeting at 4pm every Thursday on Zoom for anyone that works in the industry to grab a cuppa and have a chat about what’s going on for them. We’ve had three meetings so far and it’s been a great time to connect with others in the industry who are going through a shared experience.
"There’s a structure: we have a speaker for 10 minutes, they talk about their journey through the music industry and then there’s an open conversation. It came about because there wasn’t really a place for the industry to be talking. It’s a networking tool, as well as being an outlet for anyone who’s finding things a bit tough.
I think there's been a great shift in how the industry sees mental health and wellbeing
The Music Assistant
"It was through the Music Industry Coffee Breaks that I found out about a beautiful initiative called The Sunflower Project 2020 by Sally Freeman. She’s sending sunflower seeds to anyone that would like them in the UK, the idea behind it being a little project you can do daily, and a visual image of hope and healing. I love it!
"I think there’s been a great shift at how the industry sees mental health and wellbeing, and I hope that inclusive attitude can be transferred to how we as an industry look at the drinking culture. My main issue is the lack of alcohol-free alternatives at gigs, festivals and award shows. I was at a champagne reception earlier this year where there were no alcohol-free alternatives and they almost made me pay for my tonic water! If you’re going to offer free wine or beer at an event, make sure there’s a nice alternative, it’s really not that hard.
"Music Support is an amazing organisation that can help anyone within the industry, be it the business side of things or audience-facing, with any mental health or addiction issues. I was hoping to start volunteering with them this year, but unfortunately that’s had to be postponed.
"I’m also so lucky to be part of some great communities such as Shesaidso. It’s such a supportive global network of likeminded individuals and helps to remind me that I’m not alone."
To get involved with Music Industry Coffee Breaks, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more wellbeing content read Morna Cook on neurodiversity at Universal Music UK, Q Prime Management's Tara Richardson on anxiety, Songtrust's Lara Baker on work and redundancy, and Polydor's Ali Tant on ADHD. Learn about Ferocious Management founder Kwame Kwaten’s battle with coronavirus here.