Explore Issue 01 of LOOP Magazine

Featuring Sam Tompkins and Victor Ray as our cover stars, as well as internal spreads from Girli, Jords, Mysie, Finn Askew, Kara Marni and Master Peace

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Sustainable Music Series: The Carbon Culprits – Touring

Welcome to the first instalment of our Sustainable Music Series here at Loop. The aim of the series is to address the global climate crisis within the context of the music industry by opening up the discussion and educating on the topic! Throughout the series we will be engaging with industry activists, featuring artists making sustainable changes, shining the spotlight on organisations fostering positive change, as well as promoting more sustainable practices.  

To get the ball rolling though, we are going to have a look at some of the big areas that are affecting the carbon footprint of the music industry; and we are kicking off with one of the biggies – Touring.

What’s the problem?

Probably the most obvious product of the industry that is putting strain on the environment is touring. High carbon emissions caused by traveling by land, sea, and sky, alongside the energy required to produce an event, and the waste generated by any given event, puts it at the forefront of the industry’s climate issues.

Often, the most ethical action in the climate change debate is to stop the problem altogether, which may be easily done when switching from meat to being plant-based, but touring is a more complex issue. Although Coldplay (who vowed not to tour again until it was not detrimental to the environment) can afford not to tour, this isn’t possible for smaller artists who rely on touring to generate the bulk of their income. So, although it may be sustainable for the environment, it isn’t necessarily sustainable financially. 

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

So, how do we fix it?

Well, several methods can be employed to make touring less harmful to the environment, even though it may be difficult to completely eradicate the damage caused by touring. 

Some positive examples include Massive Attack touring Europe by Train and working with academics to help map the industries carbon footprint, The 1975 pledging to plant a tree for every ticket sold, and Billie Eilish committing to being as “green as possible” while touring and introducing ‘eco-villages’ at every show with climate change resources and educational materials to engage her audience in the topic. 

One of the biggest household name trailblazers in this department is Radiohead, who have been environmental activists and have supported Green causes since the 90s. Back in 2007, they teamed up with Stanford University to complete an “Ecological Footprint and Carbon Audit” of their U.S. tours to understand where they could improve their touring behaviours. Arguably the most striking finding of the study was that the carbon footprint incurred by the audiences travelling to attend the event was greater than that of the band flying internationally to play the gigs! This led Radiohead to alter their touring schedule to play venues that were easily accessible by public transport, and encouraged their fans to choose more sustainable options when travelling to the events – a perfect example of how this is not just an industry problem; it’s also a consumer problem!

In addition to efforts made by household names, organisations like REVERB are integral to the industry’s carbon-neutral efforts, partnering with musicians, venues, and event organisers to make their events more sustainable through methods such as outlawing single-use water bottles and providing greener options, such as refilling stations, whilst also engaging with fans face-to-face at events to encourage environmental and social action. The Forest Hill Stadium is REVERBs flagship fully sustainable venue, which has managed to outlaw over 16,400 single-use plastic water bottles! This is just the beginning though, REVERB looks to encourage acts to use biofuels in the tour buses in the future, challenging the industry to make radical changes.

More recently, in May this year live sector giants Live Nation partnered with Liquid Death Mountain Water, a company that offers alternatives to single-use plastic water bottles. The aim of the partnership is to offer event-goers more sustainable water options at all of Live Nations events and venues worldwide – which is a lot by the way!

Photo Credit: Livenation.com

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg, and there is so much more to consider and discuss around the topic, but it is a positive sign that there are people and organisations out there in the music community already working towards a more sustainable model for the industry. 

If you are new to this topic, hopefully, this has sparked your inner eco-warrior and has opened your mind to thinking more sustainably when making choices about touring or attending events.  

If you liked this article and agree the message is important, let’s spread the word! Like it, comment and tell us your thoughts, and most importantly, share it with your friends and your community. This is an issue that affects us all!

Stay tuned for more sustainable music discussions in the next instalment of the Sustainable Music Series.

Words by Darren Hay

Posted On 3 October, 2022