The Eco Has Landed

A brand’s role in making live music experiences more environmentally green

Coldplay recently announced they were putting their plans to tour their new album on hold, due to concerns over the environmental impact of concerts. A month later Massive Attack said they will complete their European tour by train to help prevent climate change.

These aren’t the first bands to address the impact the live music industry has on the global environment.

In 2008 Thom Yorke from Radiohead refused to play Glastonbury because he felt it wasn’t environmentally friendly enough and had a lack of good public transport links.

In 2010, Drake’s first headline tour as a solo artist was run in conjunction with Reverb’s since-shuttered Campus Consciousness Tour.

Billie Eilish announced that her next tour has a big focus on being green. No plastic straws, fans bringing refillable water bottles, a zone that teaches fans about the climate crisis. She appears to have it covered and as a voice of Gen Z, she is leading the way. Small changes like this will make a big difference overall but is down to the whole eco-system; the fans, the venues, the creatives, the brands.

However, at a time when even the biggest-selling artists are increasingly dependent on live shows as a main source of revenue, money to be made from tours is even more valuable than before. This makes the cost of environmentally friendly measures, such as squeezing fewer dates into a tour, harder to bear.

Brands are certainly brushing up on their green credentials in order to win the popular vote – and perhaps make a change. The challenge is for them to get involved in the cause in authentic ways. In the USA, Verizon partnered with Hawaiian Electric to develop an expanding network of solar panels integrated into their smart grid. Could brands here be the force that installs solar panels on to music venues ensuring use of renewable energy?

Earlier this year Glastonbury announced it will not sell single-use plastic water bottles this year, which makes way for brands introducing sustainable packaging such as Can O water, or venues installing refillable water stations.

Another issue entirely, is merchandise. T-shirts, bags, jumpers, and more still provide a strong, often welcome option for touring artists to supplement their revenue, but this comes with its own demands in terms of sourcing materials, minimising impact along the production line, and how items are packaged for point of sale. Can brands support the process through funding ethically sourced products and manufacturing; helping the artist where it matters most and still giving back to the fans?

Some have argued in favour of the concept of ‘slow touring’ – which essentially involves spending longer at each stop on a tour and, in its ideal state, using that time to engage with and feed back into the local community. Could big global brands sponsoring tours help make this a reality by collaborating with the industry on ways to change up and explore new touring models? Whether that be through a more residency type set up, or perhaps greater integration of the artist’s journey into the experience.

Ultimately, what seems clear is that touring will remain a key part of the mix for working artists, which means that the optimum solution will come from a combined effort between brands, artists and promoters working together to minimise the environmental impact of this corner of the world. Music tours as we know them are about to change, but which brands are ready to step in and take us on this new live journey? Time will tell.

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