Sustainable Venues At Pollstar Live!

Live Nation’s Wilson Rogers got started throwing shows in fields in the’70s. Sustainability meant digging a hole with a backhoe, burying the garbage from the concert and covering the hole back up.

These days, being green and sustainable isn’t quite so simple, as was discussed in the Best Practices For a Sustainable Concert venue panel discussion Feb. 4.

An entire industry devoted to recyclables, biodegradables, carbon offsets and renewable energy sources has popped up to make any tour, venue or vendor environmentally friendly.

But with so many options, how does one even start to become a responsible entertainment leader without getting overwhelmed by the weight of it all?
For O.A.R. bassist Benj Gershman, recycling was the easiest place to begin.

The band instituted a greening program in 2008, in coordination with Reverb, to encourage fans to recycle during concerts. Each year, the program has gotten larger, diverting thousands of tons of recyclables and achieving carbon neutrality.

This summer, the band will tackle its largest challenge yet – offsetting all emissions from the course of its career.

AEG’s Jennifer Regan has an equally audacious goal: to help guide AEG’s 1Earth environmental policy, establishing comprehensive plans for energy and climate, recycling and waste diversion, water conservation, sustainable purchasing and education. So far she’s facilitated a program that sees AEG venues tracking all resources consumed and waste generated per attendee on a monthly basis.

Bill Silva Entertainment’s Bill Silva found that something as simple as sending fans an e-mail a few days before a show to remind them to carpool or use public transportation can have major impact.

“I heard from a consultant to Jason Mraz’s campaigns that people often think all the buses and trucks and energy it takes to produce a show are the biggest factors in emissions,” he said. “Actually, it’s the way fans get to the venue.”

Moderator Brian Allenby from Reverb concurred.

“About 70 percent of the footprint of any event is going to come from the travel to and from,” he said.

Panelists cited numerous challenges in going green, from financial or infrastructural issues to problems changing fan, staff and vendor behavior.

Gershman said O.A.R. has seen some problems with venue follow-through, noting instances where staff ended up sending bags of recyclables to the trash.

“There’s a disconnect sometimes between who’s on the top tier and who’s on the ground working,” he said.

Rogers agreed, adding that even with the best environmental policies in place, one idiot can screw it all up at two in the morning, when no one is checking at the venue.

“A big part of our issue quite honestly is that idiot,” he said. “My guys can do all the good things they’re supposed to do and then you’ve got that one idiot from the third party concessionaire who contaminates your whole load.”

To counter such behavior, Regan said AEG’s environmental plan has included the institution of specific guidelines for vendors that are being written into supplier contracts.
As for the financial implications of going green, Allenby said plenty of companies have a green message and want to get it out there via sponsorships.

“It’s not your Verizon Wirelesses and it’s not folks like that,” he said. “So it’s nice because it hasn’t cannibalized any existing sponsorship that the tour would already have.”
Fans are also willing to pay a premium for green products, Silva added, and in turn become more loyal customers.

And engaged customers means more environmental impact. Fans may come away from a show with new ideas about being green and maybe even a new outlook on the artist, venue or promoter.

“We have a research group in house and we surveyed some of the Jack Johnson tours where we had a recycling program in the parking lots,” Rogers said. “We had a 68 percent approval rating.

“At Live Nation, if we can get 68 percent approval of anything, it’s a great day. People do notice what we either do or don’t do. Don’t ever forget that. They’re smarter than we ever give them credit for.” 


Pollstar Live 2011 Panel Index