Music Sustainability Association To Bring Industry Together

Clean Up On Aisle Festival:
Michael Martin – Clean Up On Aisle Festival:
The Music Sustainability Association aims to help the music industry tackle the challenges of the climate crisis including providing best practices for recycling at festivals and zero-waste resources.

There are a lot of passionate artists and music executives making strides individually to make touring and live events as climate-friendly as possible. Still, without collaboration, the business won’t be able to meet the challenges threatening the industry and planet. Enter the Music Sustainability Association – an inclusive, member-driven association that aims to make the industry not only more sustainable but just and equitable by bringing music industry professionals together to amplify, implement and innovate systemic solutions. 

The concept for the Music Sustainability Association (MSA) was conceived by Michael Martin – producer of the National Earth Day Concerts as well as CEO/founder of boutique consultancy Effect Partners and r.Cup (a rentable, reusable cup for concerts and sports events). However, he wants to make it clear that MSA isn’t his organization but the music industry’s, and he is just one of many people pulling this together. 
Two of the fellow members of the organizing committee – production manager Joel Eriksson and sustainability specialist Jennifer Regan – spoke to Pollstar ahead of the official launch of MSA, which is happening at VenuesNow Conference in Seattle Oct. 21-22.
“There’s a lot of great initiatives happening … a lot of conversations that are super promising, but it’s at times it is relatively siloed,” Eriksson, who is managing the MSA organizing committee and works with artists including Andrea Bocelli, Shania Twain and FKA twigs, told Pollstar Oct. 11 while working on Bocelli’s show at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum. “The aim with all of this is to try and break that wide open so everything that is already being done and everything that will be done in the future can be shared because really there’s no competition in all of this. It’s only one shared end goal. We may be competitors in other areas in our professional lives, but not in this.” 
Regan, who is the Senior Vice President, Sustainability at Effect Partners and the Principal and Chief Sustainability Officer of We Bring It On, following six years as the Global Sustainability Director at AEG, said, “We’re trying to help it become easier for everyone to participate instead of just the big players or a few people who are very passionate because we’re at a point where everyone wants to do something, but they can’t because a there’s an access to information gap … and resources gap.” 
With the disruptive forces of the pandemic, the climate crisis and a social justice uprising, it is clear the music industry – and world at large – can’t continue to do business as usual. As Regan said, “This is the moment to act. This is the moment to really come together and have a plan on how to be better, not just an inspired thought.” 
She explained that her role on the organizing committee is to bring in more “sustainability gurus who are already working in music,” along with some of the great groups the members have previously teamed up with who work on sustainability and music to develop and coordinate programming and resources.  
In addition to representatives from Effect Partners, the organizing committee includes reps from AEG, and the Touring Professionals Alliance (TPA). MSA has also established strategic partnerships with organizations such as REVERB / Music Climate Revolution, LiveGreen UK, the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), and the Tour Production Group (TPG). 
“Right now, we’re not even asking for money. We’re asking for contribution of intellect and time because we want to get this stuff done,” Regan said. “We’ve talked with representatives from all the major organizations. We have also gone so far to start talking to vendors of the catering companies. We also got Rock-it Cargo and Sound Moves on the logistics side. … Global Motion is another logistics company doing some great sustainability work. … You name it, we have talked to UMG, Warner Music, we’ve talked to UTA … all the agencies, promoters.” 
She added, “It’s so important for us that this is member-driven because we want it to be a place where everybody could get value out of it. And we know one of the biggest areas that people need value is in research and evaluation of sustainability solutions. It’s hard to take on the risk as an individual company … but if you can be on a working group with peers of yours from your competitors … there’s a lot less risk [and] a lot more opportunity.”
MSA is putting together a map of sustainability efforts, best practices, and resources from across the industry, currently focusing on North America. 
“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Regan said. “We want to give credit where credit is due. We’re doing this mapping exercise … so we can start with that map as a baseline to help identify some of the gaps. We’ve got a lot of great resources already added, but part of our launch is to ask other people to contribute to that and we’ll have a a link on our website where you can actually submit a resource to be included.” 
From MSA’s initial mapping efforts, zero waste is a big topic. Regan notes, “One of the big issues in the United States is recycling is different in every city that you travel to. So, because of that, as an infrastructure issue, that means the music industry doesn’t have standard expectations. When you go on tour, are you going to be going on a tour that recycles or not? … Right now, all festivals for the most part have recycling, but maybe they don’t. … What resources would you need in place for everyone in the music industry to say, yes, we are going to tackle our waste issue?”
Mapping is happening concurrently with kicking off MSA’s working groups with four initial groups identified for the first six months: zero waste resources across the U.S., energy efficiency, sustainable logistics, and impact measurement and reporting.  
Early on, MSA met with other organizations focused around diversity, inclusion and social justice issues to understand what would they need or want from MSA. Regan points out that, for example, MSA talked to Roadies of Color about what it would be like to offer environmental trainings with Roadies of Color to try to help elevate hiring people of color within the industry.
“Our focus, first and foremost, is environmental sustainability. But we can’t have environmental sustainability without social justice and inclusion,” Regan said.