With a career spanning 25 years in the music industry, I worked on many busy and complicated tours until 2006, when, suffering from burnout and chronic fatigue, I thought my touring days were over.
This led me on an unexpected journey into a completely different field, completing yoga teacher training, qualifying as a Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist and establishing a clinical practice specialising in stress management and burnout.
A chance phone call led to a return to the road, working with a significant artist who very much wanted to take care of herself on what would be her lengthiest tour to date. I quickly discovered that looking after yourself while you toured – and indeed, so you could do more of it – was actually an achievable ambition. It was so obvious, I couldn’t believe it wasn’t the norm.
© Howard ‘Head’ Bullivant
Since then, I’ve not only grown as a tour manager, crossing the globe and managing increasingly bigger tours and artists, I’ve also added to my skillset in other ways, enabling me to take care of a cross-section of clients’ needs, led by their expressed requirements. I’ll let them speak for themselves.
When COVID-19 shut down our beloved industry, I saw a crisis in mental health looming amongst artists and crew who were missing La Vida Loca and their tour families, with little ongoing support on offer. Out of this, The Back Lounge was born in June 2020 and we’ve been meeting weekly ever since. With what is now a vast online worldwide community, it’s proven how much the touring industry needed a place to meet with support and welfare at its heart.
Since August 2020, I have also been co-chairing Mental Welfare educational seminars as part of Tour Production Group – a group of industry professionals aligned in their aim to make live touring a better place. We’ve run sessions covering issues like bullying, addiction and recovery, and how best to support mental and physical health on tour.
Passionate about promoting the cause of ‘healthy touring’, I regularly lecture on the subject, most recently with BIMM, and have taken part in a number of panels for notable industry bodies such as Plasa and ILMC on improving mental health across the touring scene. I also mentor up-and-coming tour managers via a number of organisations, including BIMM and Black Acre Pathways.
I’m actively engaged with promoting Mental Health First Aid Training for touring members and Addiction Recovery Awareness, having been part of a small team working with the charity Music Support to commission education for music professionals, aimed at removing the stigma associated with these issues and educating our community to feel more confident in providing support on tour.
I’ve continued to keep up-to-date with the constantly evolving nutrition world by regularly attending continuing professional development (CPD) seminars and value having this knowledge which I can use on tour, to the benefit of artists and crew.
Finally, as part of my developing skillset, I recently completed a Psychotherapy and Counselling Foundation course at Regents University in London and in July 2021 I won the TPi Magazine ‘Unsung Hero Award’ for services to the industry.
With my ongoing involvement in organisations focused on the well-being of personnel in the live sector, I am more than ever committed to making ‘healthy touring’ a priority for the artists and crew that I work with.