Jason Garner is bringing his “Big Hugs” philosophy to the live music business.
The former Live Nation executive who signs off all correspondence with the warm and endearing “Big Hugs” salutation is launching Love4Live today, a free portal of refuge, community and support for the concert industry as it reels from the existential crisis created by COVID-19.
With thousands of jobs lost or furloughed due to the global pandemic, Garner says he hopes the series will help music professionals cope with grief, stress and strain on their mental health. The Love4Live portal will offer expert conversations and panels, twice weekly meditation classes and a virtual retreat on Dec. 4-6. Love4Live is funded and curated by Garner and is offered in conjunction with the nonprofit InsightLA Meditation Center.
Garner knows what is like to endure the stress of the music business, climbing the ranks from flea market parking attendant in Northern California to CEO of Global Music at Live Nation, working with chief executive Michael Rapino at what quickly became the world’s largest concert promotion company. Twice named to Fortune magazine’s list of the top 20 highest-paid executives under 40, Garner was riding on top of the world until a series of personal tragedies and substance abuse issues pushed him over the precipice.
“Love4Live is the intersection of the two things that I really love — live music and meditation,” says Garner. Thinking about music professionals hurt by the COVID-19 shutdown, Garner explains, “I was in the same exact spot a decade ago. Here’s all these people, just like me, who had woken up and now don’t have a job. They might not know who they are any more. They’re cut off from their community. The difference was I had resources and now I want to use those resources to help others.”
Garner went on to make a series of significant life changes, focused on ending his substance abuse problems, reevaluated his priorities around family and strengthened his own mental health through meditation, even traveling to China to study with monks at the Shaolin Temple in Henan Province.
His story is detailed in his 2014 book “…And I Breathed: My Journey from a Life of Matter to a Life That Matters” and he is hoping his experience with trauma will give others the tools needed to cope with trauma.
Love4Live will feature 15 of the world’s leaders in meditation including Sharon Salzberg, Tara Brach, LeAnn Rimes, George Mumford, Krishna Das, Joseph Goldstein, and Lama Rod Owens. Every Tuesday and Thursday (exact dates and times below), long-time meditation teacher Thomas Davis will lead a meditation class geared toward mindfulness in tough times. The program will culminate with a three-day concert industry online meditation retreat December 4-6 featuring meditation experts Salzberg, Trudy Goodman and Thomas Davis.
“We want people to feel less alone right now and know they dont have to do this by themselves,” Garner says. “Second, we can’t gather backstage at Madison Square Garden right now. There’s no after-parties at the Forum. This whole community has been taken away and I hope this is an opportunity for us to get together, look inward and focus on our own hearts. From what I’ve seen, that that’s a very special experience.”