With COP26 in full swing, the United Nations’ summit for climate change will see world leaders gather to set ambitious, forward-looking goals that form the fundamental basis of a global emission-reduction plan to keep global warming beneath 1.5°C.
This weekend, UMA Entertainment is bringing the live music sector together at COP26, in Glasgow, to explore the role that culture (music and entertainment) plays in the fight against climate change. With recent figures suggesting that live music in the UK alone generates 405,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (that’s the same weight as 15.5 million Fender 65 Twin Reverb Amps - or just over one and a bit Empire State Buildings) every year, not to mention the 23,500 tonnes of rubbish left behind at festivals in the UK in that same window of time.
As the world settles into a new normal, the music industry must do so as well. We could list off a number of ways that the average concert or festival-goer can go greener at live events. From wild and far out ideas like not leaving your tent and all your sh*t in the middle of a field once a year, to more acceptable suggestions like taking public transport to shows instead of driving.
But we reckon you probably know those already, so here are a few ways we’ve been thinking the music industry can go greener:
Everything at a live show takes place within a venue (we’re including outdoor events as venues in this as well). And a recent study revealed that venues are responsible for 34% of the carbon emissions produced at a live show, followed a close second by audience travel in at 33%, so this feels like a logical place to start our list.
We’ve seen some conscious changes being adopted by the live music and venue industry in recent months, and we’re encouraged by the future of live music. There are a number of major changes that venues can make, over time - as supply chains allow - such as switching over to renewable energy, sourcing food and beverages locally (to reduce transport emissions) and even updating food menus to lead with plant-based options. But one of the biggest issues with concert venues remains single-use plastic. In 2019, we saw Live Nation, the world’s biggest concert promoter commit to eliminate single use plastics from it’s festivals by 2021. That includes Reading & Leeds, Wireless, Latitude and Download Festival among others.
Fans can help drive the change by planning ahead and taking reusable, or biodegradable plastic alternatives with them to events and taking everything they can home with them again.
TLDR: What can venues do?
Continue to reduce single-use plastics on site, and switch to reusable alternatives
Concert goers can invest in a reusable festival travel-kit (cutlery, straws, cups, etc)
Venues can supply tasty plant-based options and run promo campaigns to encourage fans to choose these items
Concert goers can opt to order the tasty plant-based options
Concert goers can opt to travel smarter to shows, wherever possible
Venues can introduce recycling stations across their venues
Incentives - add a small deposit on each drink sold to make sure that every vessel is returned by the end of the night
DOWNLOAD YOUR FAVOURITES
It’s not only the live event space that can make a positive change. A study from 2019 suggests streaming music leads to at least 200 to 350 million kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions per year (that’s roughly 777 times what the entire UK live music industry emits each year, wowza!) with servers and the energy that powers them being the main culprit here.
That same study found that if you stream your favorite record at least 27 times, it would be better for the environment to buy a physical copy. However, with streaming services now part of our everyday lives, we should probably just make better use of that download button and save our top albums to our phones, tablets and computers to save the servers being used. Once the music is downloaded to your device, the earth will stop paying the price as you listen to 'ABBA Gold' for the 1000th time. With 55% of Spotify’s users opting for the free version, it would be a smart move for streaming services to enable downloads for all users, not just their paid subscribers. For the sake of the planet.
Helpful hint — We don't pay for Spotify to download music, we just hate the ads.
TLDR: How can downloading on your streaming services help?
Let us download music with the free version
Download your most listened-to songs and albums instead of streaming to save energy
3. LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Governments are some of the greatest benefactors of live events, particularly with the UK set to re-introduce a 20% VAT on concert tickets this year. Given that audience travel makes up 33% of all emissions related to music touring, there are definitely some greener options.
TLDR: What can they do?
Give us more free or subsidised public transportation options to and from concerts.
Tube, train, double decker, or even a shuttle bus to a transit hub will significantly reduce emissions but congestion as well.
Touring makes up a huge portion of revenue for artists and the industry; it’s also the most environmentally destructive element of the industry. While bigger more established bands may be able to opt out of touring, this may not be a feasible option for smaller or newer artists. But where there’s a will there's a way, and these artists are proving that every effort matters.
How artists are reducing their impact:
Dave Matthews Band uses locally produced biodiesel in their tour vehicles, and sources local food while on tour
The Roots have long been an advocate for the environment, working with many environmental organisations to promote awareness on many different environmental issues. The group also works to neutralize their CO2 emissions while on tour
Billie Eilish, Drake, Harry Styles have eco-villages at each show where fans can learn about climate change and the importance of making a difference
Radiohead send their gear via ship instead of airfreight, their buses run on biofuel, they use water flasks instead of disposable plastic cups and they encourage their fans to take public transportation to their shows
Nick Mulvey released a vinyl record made from recycled ocean plastic found on the Cornish coast
Companies like REVERB have been helping artists green up their tours since 2004 and organisations like A Greener Festival and Julie’s Bicycle are dedicated to improving sustainability across the events sector. The people and resources are available to do less harm when touring and no matter how many adorning fans are singing back at you, there is always something we can do.
Support the effort. Make your voice heard and show demand for better choices as a fan. There’s strength in numbers and if you’re happy to adjust a little bit in aid of the only planet designed for human habitation, then let your favourite artists know. They’re making decisions behind the scenes and second guessing your demand-for-better, so celebrate the artists that take a stand and encourage others to do the same.
What can we as fans do?
Get innovative and be bold about voicing your ideas. Drop your environmental demands in venue, label, artist and government DMs - they’ll love it - Go to more local live gigs and if you do drive or travel to a show, offset your carbon footprint; there’s loads of great tree planting apps out there for this - Leave no trace when you go to concerts and festivals; take home everything you came with
WE’LL LEAVE YOU WITH THIS…
The music industry will adapt, and we can either look at the changes as an inconvenience to the status quo or an opportunity to be better. From venues and artists, to concert goers and online streamers, we all have a part to play.
- - -
- - -
UMA Entertainment will host a special culture and climate event at COP26 (UN global summit for climate change in Glasgow on November 6th, featuring talks on climate change, a live show by Aurora and Sam Fischer, and DJ sets from Andy Cato (Groove Armada), Sarra Wild, Darwin and BEMZ.