[00:00:06] Speaker A: Hi, welcome back to Music Industry 360. I am your host, Randall Foster. I'm Chief Creative Officer at Symphonic. Joining me today, I'm very, very excited about this one is Tatum also. Tatum is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Music Health Alliance. This is an organization that I have recently learned about. And I was lucky enough to be in a presentation where Tatum was center stage talking about all the incredible things that Music Health alliance is doing for artists and for music industry folks generally across the board. And it really just blew me away, the resources that were available. So, Tatum, thank you so much for joining us today.
[00:00:53] Speaker B: I'm so excited to be here. Randall, thank you.
[00:00:56] Speaker A: Well, so before we jump into anything too nitty gritty here, can you just give us the 10,000 foot view? What is Music Health Alliance? Why does this matter to our listeners? And what are some of the resources available that people really ought to know?
[00:01:13] Speaker B: So Music Health alliance is really a unique nonprofit organization.
We are a human service provider. So we're not like the foundations that exist in our industry, like a music heritage or ACM lifting lives. We actually meet with people to help them walk through whatever their health crisis is from beginning to end. So our mission is to heal the music. And the way we do that is by bringing people access to health care from birth to end of life. And we do that in three ways. We protect, direct and connect. So protect is how are you going to pay for your care? Is it health insurance? Is it Medicare? Is it a state program or a federal program or financial assistance? And then we listen to whatever your crisis is and help you navigate through it and connect you with those resources.
All of our services are free. And the reason it exists is because our industry is made up of 76% of the music industry across the nation is self employed or part of a small business. So you don't have access to HR departments. And even if you do, no one from the top of the totem pole to the bottom is immune from a health care crisis. And we're here to help make sure we can solve those problems so you, our industry, can get back to doing what we do to make music.
[00:02:54] Speaker A: That's incredible. So, like from your client base, the folks that could take advantage of this, it's my understanding that everybody from the center stage, artists, everyone in the ecosystem, yes.
[00:03:09] Speaker B: Of music, from those that work at a venue to audio engineers, songwriters, producers, recording artists, guitar techs, everyone who is part of the music industry ecosystem, making a living, that's the key. So you have to have made a living in our industry for at least three years.
[00:03:30] Speaker A: Okay.
In their immediate family as well, correct?
[00:03:33] Speaker B: Yes. Their spouses, partners, dependent children, and even dependent parents if they're in that stage of life.
[00:03:42] Speaker A: Wow, that's incredible.
On the connection piece of this, obviously the protect piece makes a lot of sense. You're going to help codify the funding to assist in the treatment. On the connection piece, though, you're really playing matchmaker between providers and funding sources and other things. Can you talk a little bit about that?
[00:04:03] Speaker B: Sure.
We get calls. Well, let me start with the funding sources. We have become the clearinghouse for all things medical for a lot of our music foundations, like ACM lifting Lives and the Gospel Music Trust Fund and music cares. If you've got a giant medical bill or a health issue, they'll send you to us first and we'll help negotiate down your bill or figure out a way to pay for it and get it, whittle it down.
So when you go back to a music cares or ACM lifting lives, the funds that they can offer can go towards your living expenses or a smaller medical bill, because a $3,000 grant won't go very far when you're talking about a medical bill, but it could last for months when you're talking about rent and utilities. So that's one form of the connection. The other is finding the right doctor for whatever your issue is and someone who's taking new patients. We see it right now. We're doing a whole lot of matching with counselors and therapists and psychiatrists in the mental health space because it's so hard to navigate and find somebody who understands the music industry. So after COVID, we had a huge uptick in requests for mental health help. Not inpatient treatment, just counseling.
So we've created a mechanism to help navigate that, too, through the MHA Mental Health Fund, and we've got lots of partners in that as well.
[00:05:40] Speaker A: That's awesome. I know firsthand how hard it is to find the right person to talk to when you're in the point where you need to talk to somebody. I wish I would have known you all existed.
[00:05:52] Speaker B: I know. I wish I'd known us way back when I had my own health Cris.
[00:05:57] Speaker A: Our listeners, are you all. Like I was telling Tatum when we got on the call before I hit record, I've been in the business in Nashville for 20 years, and I just learned of this organization. And so I think as a call to action, everyone listening here and everyone who's watching this on YouTube, talk about this with your friends, because these resources, I have so many friends who could have utilized them if I had known to point them in the right direction. I think it's just so cool. Anecdotally, I do want to talk about a story that was told at your presentation, because I thought it was just so cool. There was an artist who had a parent who was needing treatment, and unfortunately, due to the illness and due to the extremity of the treatment, that parent needed to find their way across the country to a specialist, and the organization literally found an airplane for them to get.
[00:06:58] Speaker B: That was crazy.
There are lots of extraordinary cases, but that was one that was.
The artist's father was in the latter stages of cancer, metastatic cancer, and he couldn't fly commercially, and there was this clinical trial that he was a perfect qualifier for, and it was about to start. He'd just gotten accepted, but there was no way to get him there. And our industry, as you know, as I know, it's such a family, and we just put out feelers, and an artist just happened to be heading that way and was able to swing through the town where the father was and pick him up and bring him out to Los Angeles where the clinical trial was. And when you're that sick, it's not a cure that you're looking for. It's more time. And that's what this clinical trial gave him, was a little bit more time with his family.
[00:08:08] Speaker A: I was absolutely blown away by that story and the other stories that I heard that day.
Like you said, from all stages of life to end of life assistance as well, which so many artists, I think, in this industry, play the role of backing artists, or play the role of guitar tech, or of touring support, and never see the big dollars that everybody kind of romantically visualizes.
[00:08:42] Speaker B: Theme and fortune do not go hand in hand in our business.
That is such a misnomer.
[00:08:49] Speaker A: Just to hear that you all are there and were there in those instances, I think is incredible. Let's back away just a little bit, because I want to get to know you a little bit more here, because I think founding an organization like this is a great endeavor and I think takes a lot of work. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Like, where are you from? Kind of. How did you get into music?
[00:09:16] Speaker B: That's a great question. I am from Deep in the Piney woods of South Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Somerville, Mississippi, and they are tiny little towns. And I made my way to Vanderbilt, and I really thought I was going to be a doctor, and I had to do an internship for my major and thought, I'm in. You know, I've always worked in an emergency room in the summers. I'll intern for a record label. That'll be cool. And I got an internship in the marketing department. Wait, this is the best part. In the marketing department at MCA Records. But the reason my resume got picked from the stack is I left the L out of public speaking skills, and it said, excellent pubic speaking skills.
I'm not even kidding. I'm like, oh, my God. So I get called for this interview, and they're like, dude, tell us about this. And I'm like, that's when I got the internship. Not because I have excellent pubic speaking.
[00:10:20] Speaker A: Skills was a creative internship, though. It must have been on the accounting side of it.
[00:10:26] Speaker B: They've recruiting.
Yeah, those days are gone. But I felt like I had found my tribe. I mean, it was like an industry of misfits. And it didn't matter who your daddy was or how much money you had. It was how hard you worked and how smart you worked and how creative you were. And it made sense to me. It was like the ability to touch the masses without the math and science. And I loved it. I was hooked. So I started doing internships. That was my junior year of college, so I did independent studies so I could keep my foot in the door with an internship. And it was an extraordinary opportunity.
So when Scott Borchetta got fired from MCA or quit, debatable. He would say that, too.
Everybody in the promotion department got bumped up. So I became the receptionist of the promotion department at MCA Records. I thought I had arrived. I mean, Dirk's Bentley was in the tape room at TNN. Jay Williams was in the mailroom at William Morris. Earl Simmons was in the mailroom at ASCAP. There are a whole bunch of us who we all started the same week, and we were like, we've made it. We're making $13,000 a year, and we've got benefits, and we don't even know what that means.
But I was hungry. I would have swept the floors just to learn. It was totally eye opening. It was the late 90s. There were unlimited expense accounts, but it was a great time of music when there were good songs.
[00:12:18] Speaker A: Just to interject for a second, the non national, non country music people may not recognize the names of the people that you just said, but Dirk's Bentley is a major label recording artist who is absolutely crushed for nearly two decades at this.
Know Jay Williams. The rest of those folks are all the top of the game. They run companies, so the illustration is apt.
I'm thinking about my friends that are producing Rugathon down in.
[00:12:47] Speaker B: Yeah, they may not recognize.
Jay went from the mailroom to now he's one of the partners and big agents at William Morris. I mean, it's really neat to see how hard work in our industry really does pay off for those that stick it out. A lot of people, they call it a ten year town. I think it's like a 25 year town.
[00:13:15] Speaker A: Now, your music background, this is fantastic, because I didn't know any of this about you. How did you pivot that towards health advocacy?
Where did that become congruent?
[00:13:25] Speaker B: So I left MCA to join a small artist management firm. And I had just gotten married, and I had health insurance and a maternity writer, and I got pregnant with twins, and I went into preterm labor. So I spent six weeks in the hospital, and then the boys were born at three months. This was 21 years ago.
They spent nine weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. And I left the hospital with a half million dollar bill. And I thought, okay, I'm running a management firm. I did everything I was supposed to.
How did this happen? And I thought my situation was totally isolated. Like, this had never happened to anybody else before. And I'd grown up in a family of doctors and nurses, and I thought, if you get a medical bill, you pay it. So I liquidated every asset I had, and my grandfather co signed a loan. It took ten years to pay off, and I paid all the bills. And then I started to hear stories about lots of people in our industry with the same story. So, fast forward. I went to Vanderbilt to build an office of Music industry Relations, because I needed to be off the road, not doing management with infant sick twin boys. They're now 21 and both in college and doing great. Thank goodness for modern healthcare.
But it being at Vanderbilt Building this music industry relations department, it was really a fundraising department, but it allowed me to see the backside of the hospital and how things worked and flowed, and how billing worked and flowed, and that led to the opportunity to build a nonprofit. But the way it came to be, I always wanted to build a way to bring access to healthcare to our industry, because we all had the same story. We all worked in crisis management. When you've got a brain that's constantly firing from the right side, your analytical side doesn't get as much work. So there's a heightened sense of emotion. It's also where negative emotions live.
So it's this perpetual cycle that really hurts our industry and career longevity especially. So. Honest to goodness. In the middle of the night, about 13 years ago, I woke my husband up and I said, hey, read this dissolution agreement. Is there any non compete? And he said, no. So I got up and literally wrote the template for the business model that we use at Music Health alliance today. So it started in my bedroom in the middle of the night, moved to my kitchen table, and then I went on the coffee shop tour. I can tell you where every plug socket and every coffee shop in the whole Nashville area is.
And then we scaled slowly as the need grew. And now we've got 18 staff members and we've served 20,000 music people across the nation. And this is the crazy number. Saved $110,000,000 in health care cost.
And that's real money. It's not monopoly money, it's real dollars for real people. And it shouldn't be that way. That's just where we are with our health care system.
[00:16:50] Speaker A: Yeah, that's shocking. Well, now you have beautiful offices on 16th Avenue.
[00:16:56] Speaker B: Isn't that crazy?
[00:16:58] Speaker A: Oh my goodness.
The 110,000,000 on the health advocacy side of things. I mean, obviously you're here in Nashville, but you do serve anybody in the industry, right?
[00:17:14] Speaker B: So are there borders?
No borders. We've got clients in all 50 states. We finally, last year had a client in North Dakota. That was our holdout state. Only one, but they're there.
Yeah. So we have big pockets in New York and LA and of course Nashville because this is where our staff is from and we're all from the music industry. So we have a lot of ties here, but New Orleans, Miami, Chicago, lots of music cities, we have pockets of music people and then they're scattered across the nation.
[00:17:53] Speaker A: Any plans to expand to offices in.
[00:17:57] Speaker B: Know, I think pre COVID we definitely did, but we're able, with Zoom and phone and email, we're able to reach these populations in these other places and still keep our overhead low. And keeping our overhead low is what allows us to continue to scale. I mean, I hope one day we can, but right now I would rather put our funds directly into our advocates in the programs and services versus overhead for an office.
[00:18:29] Speaker A: Now, obviously the US healthcare system is especially challenging for our listeners that aren't in the continental US. Is there anything you all can do to assist them or other sister organizations?
[00:18:46] Speaker B: Unfortunately, no. But there are such good systems outside of the US.
We do help anyone who is in the US, even if they're from another country, as long as they're here legally. And have a green card or one visa. We can still help them navigate all things healthcare, but the need for healthcare navigation, especially with cost, doesn't exist outside the US. It's uniquely our unfortunate problem.
[00:19:20] Speaker A: Yeah. So looking at your day to day, what goes on around Europe, can you give us a clue? What's a day in the life look like for you? I imagine no two days are the same.
[00:19:33] Speaker B: No two days are the same.
We're going into the open enrollment season. That's where the Affordable Care act allows the six week time span where individuals can sign up for health insurance.
So this gets really busy for us because there's so many individuals, we'll see about 7000 clients in this short window of space. And so on days during open enrollment, it's every hour on the hour, client, client, client, client, helping navigate health insurance. But typically on a typical day, all of the clients that we see, it's so different and unusual. It might be I've just gotten this horrific cancer diagnosis, or we just found out that we are adopting, we've been approved for adoption and we have this new baby and we don't know what to do with it.
Those are really joy filled. Or I have an aging parent who's just been diagnosed with dementia and we need a Game plan. So it's all over the map. And that for me is very ADHD and it keeps things interesting. And the healthcare system is constantly changing like liquid, and so are the laws. So for us, understanding the law and staying in tune with all the shifts, that's part of the big sword we can wield when we go out and really fight and advocate for our clients within the system. So no two days are the same and we get asked a lot, like, do you miss the industry? And I feel like, and I think our staff would agree, we're more vested in the industry now than we've ever been before.
And it's really fun when we see a client who has struggled, who's back on the stage or back in their executive seat or whatever part of the industry they're part of, when they can go back to it and they don't have to leave their craft or their career because of a healthcare crisis.
[00:21:50] Speaker A: That's awesome. So give us an idea. What changes do you see coming right now in healthcare?
I normally say, what changes you see coming in the industry, but I think it's more apropos to talk about it in specific nature to what you all are doing. Do you feel that we're moving to a better, more sustainable health system? Here, that's easier to navigate. I mean, you've obviously got the roadmap, but for those of us who don't or who haven't come to see you, do you see it getting better or worse?
[00:22:29] Speaker B: It's a million dollar question.
I don't want to sound pessimistic because I think there's always a way, and there are always amazing physicians who practice by the Hippocratic oath. And the Hippocratic oath says, I will use my craft to do good. I won't focus on profit, I won't focus on me. It'll be about my patient.
Right now, in our healthcare system, there are too many hands in the cookie jar that don't belong there. And the focus is more on profit than patient. And I think the good news is that the consumer is getting a lot more savvy about cost and negotiating. Everything's negotiable in healthcare, even if they say it's not, it always is.
I think that those are positive tHings. I think that we've got a shortage for nurses and specific specialties. I think we've gotten away from seeing the body as a whole and these specialties because there's such a high profit motive and a lot of people are interested in different things. You get siloed in the body parts and you lose track of the body as a whole.
And I don't mean functional medicine, but I mean primary care doctor. Being like the artist manager of your body, seeing your body as a whole and being your champion, that is so important. And having that person.
We believe prevention is secure and that good primary care doctor, when you're on the road or if you have something you need, being able to call them and have that relationship, that's a critical piece of the healthcare puzzle.
Those relationships are getting stronger.
I think there's a lot of hope, but I don't foresee a single payer system coming.
I think that for the first time since the Affordable Care act was passed in 2010, we're starting to be at a place where this side and this side are having some things that they agree on. Like nobody wants preexisting conditions to be excluded and nobody wants to pay a bazillion dollars for a prescription. Those are things everybody can agree on. And I think we'll start to see some real positive changes there.
But as far as this whole system overhaul, I don't see that coming anytime soon. I hope that I'm wrong because there's a lot of things that need to be fixed.
[00:25:03] Speaker A: Yeah, no, I totally get it. I kind of led you on that question because I knew it was loaded.
I was hoping you would totally disagree with my assumption.
Music Health Alliance. What are you excited about?
What's 2024 represent for you all? What's got you really jazzed?
[00:25:26] Speaker B: I'm excited about getting to serve and help more people. I mean, now that people are talking about mental health, we've got resources for mental health. Nobody has to go at this alone. And it used to be taboo. Now it's a red badge of courage to say, yeah, I'm going to talk to somebody because it's making me beTter. Mental health, the access to dental care, and then we've just built a senior care program that will help with a lot of the gaps in our senior population that you don't think about. Like there's a donut hole. When you have Medicare and your Medicine costs so much, the Medicare stops paying for it for this amount of money, and that's a lot of money. And people start rationing their medicine and eating rice and reusing disposable diapers. I mean, those are stories we hear so they can afford their medicine.
We have a new fund that Lauren Daigle and Anonymous donor helped us build to cover the cost of things like that for the legacy of our industries. I mean, the people that paid the way before us. So I'm really excited about that. And being on Music Row for the first time and getting to catch up with a lot of people has been really fun personally.
[00:26:49] Speaker A: That's awesome. Well, I'm going to have to come have coffee with you so you can show me where to plug my laptop.
[00:26:54] Speaker B: That is the truth. I can show you. Pick a coffee shop.
[00:26:59] Speaker A: All right, so the last two questions I've asked everybody these, and I kind of forewarned you a little bit here, but I'm curious to know your thoughts, because the thing that fascinates me about the music industry is that all of us that have gotten in the music industry had a singular purpose. Most of us.
[00:27:16] Speaker B: I wasn't that cool, Randall.
I thought the Dixie chicks would never make it and I love them. I'm proud to be wrong.
[00:27:27] Speaker A: But the reality is there's so many secondary and tertiary industry roles that service and benefit the industry and that are benefited by the industry that I think everybody has to focus on the overall health of the industry in order to help keep pushing this boulder up the hill. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the music industry at large in 2020?
[00:27:53] Speaker B: Without question, it's the revenue streams. When you have a copyright that seemingly has no value to those playing it and you're not being paid for it as a creator, that's a real problem.
There's no other business model that works that way and we have to support our creators or there is no music. I mean, we're seeing younger, whole new young crowd figuring out those entering the industry, figuring out how to monetize things different ways. And that's really inspiring. But the revenue stream is broken and I don't know how to fix it.
[00:28:42] Speaker A: Well, that's a tale as old as time.
[00:28:44] Speaker B: I know it's gotten better.
[00:28:47] Speaker A: I will say I do feel like we're getting better, but I'm not in disagreement.
Last and certainly not least, who's your favorite current artist? Who are you listening to?
[00:28:59] Speaker B: Right one, I have one that I have had on repeat the last few days.
Maddie Diaz is Maddie tastic. She has a new record and she's just dropped some songs and I just love her voice and everything that she writes so well.
[00:29:23] Speaker A: Maddie spent some time Nashville. She's in Los Angeles now.
[00:29:26] Speaker B: No, she's back. She's in Nashville. She was just out with, believe it or not, Harry Styles. She was his guitar player on tour.
But she's just grown tremendously as a writer and an artist and I've enjoyed her music immensely.
[00:29:43] Speaker A: Total sweetheart. I'll have to check out the new record because I wouldn't know where that it was out, but I do know. Maddie, thank you so much for joining us, everybody. Once again, this is Tatum. Awesome. Who's the founder and chief executive officer of Music Health Alliance. I am Randall Foster, chief creative of Officer Symphonic. And it is my profound pleasure to host the music industry 360 Podcast. Thank you for joining us. And stay tuned for our next installment.
[00:30:11] Speaker B: Yay. Thanks, Randall.