Drug-dependent industries – modern urban myth?

Phil Boucher explores the
twilight, drug-crazed world of the music industry – and is disappointed.

While it’s commonly
believed that certain industries are dens of vice and drug taking, the reality couldn’t
be further from the truth claims Jill Berry, personnel director at Virgin
Records.

She says, "There is
this perception that people in the record industry survive on long lunches,
late starts and nightly parties. It is a serious industry and good fun but
quite simply people wouldn’t be able to function if that was the case.

"Long
lunches for one are definitely a thing of the past", she says. "We
are busy, we want to be at our desks and most of the senior people within the
company don’t even drink. They might have the occasional glass of wine at home
but the vast majority of people wouldn’t even dream of going out on a school
night unless they were entertaining clients – and then they’re not even allowed
to drink."

This change
in attitude has enabled Virgin to go eight years without a drugs or alcohol
crisis. However, like many in the music industry, they have a wealth of
experience to fall back on when trouble does arise.

"During
the 70s and 80s we learnt a lot about putting people through rehab – mainly
that it’s very expensive and only works if people really want help,"
explains Berry.

"It does work and
in some cases the effects can be amazing, but in order to reach the stage where
someone is ready to return to work they have to be ready to seek help. You
can’t force people to change. You can only help to guide them."

Despite
this, Berry contends that it’s knowledge that’s rarely used within both Virgin
and the music industry as a whole. "It’s certainly not the problem it was
10 years ago," she explains. "I don’t know why, but it’s probably
because everyone works so hard and is in a job they take pride in. At the end
of the day people still have to get up for work in the morning and that stops
most people from getting drunk at night."

While Berry
believes this change in attitude has made the industry slightly less fun, to
her mind the advantages far outweigh any loss of laughter. "People see the
Brit Awards on TV and don’t realise that it’s our big night out of the
year", she explains.

"It’s the one night
that the whole industry lets its hair down. Things have changed so much in the
music industry since I started that the vast majority wouldn’t even consider
getting drunk during the day – let alone doing anything else."

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