Multi-award-winning tour manager Andy Franks knows all too well about the issues of mental health and drink and drug addiction. ‘Franksy’, as he is known to many in the industry, has experienced the highs and lows of various backstage roles in the business, working with artists such as Depeche Mode, Coldplay, Madness, The Stone Roses and Robbie Williams.

Franks’ charity Music Support has partnered with the Event Production Show, which he will attend following his appearance at the recent Event Production Awards. Franks tells Access why Music Support was launched and how it works to help event professionals. 

Why did you set up Music Support?

In 2012 I lost my job with Coldplay through alcohol-related issues after seven years there working with them. Chris Martin and I both agreed that I needed to get help but I didn’t really know what to do or where to get help. I carried on drinking for a while and then I reached my rock bottom, got into recovery with therapy and went to AA.

I had a chance meeting at John Henry’s with Matt Thomas, who I had known from a previous project that we worked on where he was a label manager. I mentioned that I wanted to do something for people who are struggling with drink and drugs and he said he was thinking the same thing. I asked him why he would want to do that with a record company, and he explained the stress that everyone was under and the issues they faced. This opened my eyes a bit and made me realise that drink and drugs is something that’s endemic throughout society but pervades all areas of the music business in different ways.

We got together with Mark Richardson [drummer for band Skunk Anansie] and a clinical therapist called Sam Parker, and that was how Music Support launched in 2016. We used to operate the phones ourselves with a 24-hour helpline and couldn’t believe how quickly people started to get in touch.   

How do you support those affected?

Five and half years on – the fact that we’ve managed to keep the charity going through the pandemic is nothing short of miraculous – but we’ve had some very good support.

When we first started, it seemed like a lot of the calls were just people who wanted to be able to chat to somebody that understood issues and point them in the right direction. Now there’s a lot more people that need help either with addiction or mental health issues, anxiety, stress, financial worries, and the people that answer are on our helpline from nine to five.

They will speak to somebody who has been trained in being able to offer help and advice. If it’s something that needs clinical advice, we have access to therapists or clinicians who can speak to them. And then from that, they can decide what the next plan of action is whether they need rehabilitation.

It’s a lot of signposting and being available for people that are struggling. The big problem when you’ve got an issue is that you feel that other people won’t necessarily understand it.

The point of Music Support was to show people that if you get in touch, we will be able to understand some of those issues, because we’ve been there ourselves – all the people involved have suffered themselves within the business.

Do you think general support for those affected has improved over the years in the industry? Or can this still be improved?

There’s tonnes of work to be done, we’re only really scratching the surface. But I’ve been in the music business for 40 years and nobody used to talk about mental health issues.

You knew people on tour that maybe had a drink problem or a drug problem, but nine times out of 10, provided they could do their job, nobody did anything about it. You didn’t think about the aftercare – it was like ‘just give them some food or go and get some drugs’ so they can carry on and do their job. It was just sticking plasters over the problem to try and continue with a tour. And then at the end of the tour, no one cares about them.

With musicians, there is a certain level of care there because they have management and people looking after them. Whereas the crew, label, managers, there’s no one looking after them, so where do they turn to? If you go to the NHS there might be a year waiting list to see a therapist.

We’ve had people that have turned up to see a doctor and they’re like ‘Wow you’re in the music business, that must be amazing!’ Well if it was that amazing, I wouldn’t be here, would I? It’s about understanding that it’s a brilliant job to be in, but it also has added pressures that aren’t always there in civvy street.

There’s also a stigma around people feeling embarrassed to ask for help or they don’t know how to go about it. So we wanted to offer this one-stop-shop that was completely non-judgmental. Our tagline, ‘you are not alone’ is very important to show people that there are people who want to help them.

What was the impact of the pandemic on mental health and the demand for services?

We’ve had a 60% increase in calls during the pandemic and I think that’s for a lot of different reasons.

We’ve been very fortunate with Music Support because a lot of it initially was word of mouth. When we first launched in 2016 I was working with the Stone Roses and going to a few different festivals, where people were coming up to us and telling us what we were doing is amazing. 

A lot of people in the business feel discarded and that no one really cares for them. It’s a business that is very good at chewing people up and spitting them out.

What do you have lined up at Music Support? 

We’re going to have a stand up at the Event Production Show so people can come and talk to us and find out more about mental health. We’ve got our Mental Health First Aid Training that we launched a couple of years ago and this has really taken off. There’s around 300-400 people that have been through the course and there’s an amazing amount of interest.

People do talk about mental health now – when we first started it was a very taboo subject and now it’s not. The music business is predominately male orientated and men are terrible at talking about their feelings. So we’re really pushing these training schemes and opportunities for people to help themselves and others. Things are looking up for the coming year – watch this space.