Celebrate Earth Day: Why The Live Biz Must Take Meaningful Action On Climate Change Now

Global Citizen Live featured concerts on six continents Sept. 25 to raise awareness and funds for extreme poverty, climate action and vaccine equality. Performances included Billie Eilish in New York; BTS in Seoul, South Korea; and Elton John in Paris. Photo by Bertrand Guay / AFP / Getty Images

A group of scientists made headlines earlier this month after being arrested for chaining themselves to the doors of a JPMorgan Chase building in Los Angeles to protest the bank’s investment in fossil fuels, one of more than a dozen demonstrations around the world hosted by the Scientist Rebellion coalition to call attention to the urgency of the climate crisis.

“We’ve been trying to warn you guys for so many decades that we’re heading towards a fucking catastrophe, and we’ve been being ignored,” NASA scientist Peter Kalmus said April 6, according to Business Insider. “The scientists of the world are being ignored, and it’s got to stop. We’re not joking. We’re not lying. We’re not exaggerating.”

A few days earlier, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a dire report saying that “greenhouse gas emissions must begin to decline by 2025 at the latest – and be cut by 43 percent by 2030” to limit the global average temperature rise to the 1.5C (2.7F) agreed on under the Paris Agreement, according to the Independent.

This call to action is also being trumpeted by eco-conscious musicians including Billie Eilish who took the stage at New York’s Central Park during 2021’s Global Citizen Live event, a 24-hour concert that featured performances from sites on six continents with a lineup boasting more than 50 artists including Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Coldplay, BTS and Lizzo.

“Thank you for being here and giving a fuck about the world,” Eilish told the crowd Sept. 25. “Let’s just try helping the world and do what we can. I’m talking out of my ass because I don’t know what to do. We need to try harder.”

With a constant barrage of information and so many issues calling out for one’s attention from the invasion of Ukraine to a mental health crisis among youth that’s been exacerbated by the pandemic to legislation that’s threatening the rights of women, it’s easy to feel too overwhelmed to care, let alone take action.

The effects of climate change, however, are literally hitting close to our homes, whether we’re talking wildfires, hurricanes, extreme temperatures or drought. It’s clear that this Earth Day, April 22, the time is now to push back against inertia and for all of us in the live business to do our part to make touring and festivals more sustainable – to ensure the industry is helping make the planet a better place rather than contributing to climate change. As punny signs at protests declare: there is no planet B. Rather than just a pet cause, we must look at sustainability as a necessity that we incorporate into every aspect of the live business, including routing tours, transportation, venue upgrades and food and beverage options.

“The [music] industry is still way behind most other industries,” says 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).

“I am starting to see some great movement, but still really slow and not fast enough to have an impact before it’s too late. There’s much more of a focus on talking than doing. The industry needs to start analyzing every component and look at not only Scope 1, but Scope 2 and 3 emissions.”

Martin notes that the industry has to go beyond offsets and actually start to draw down emissions if it’s going to meet the thresholds that are needed to be able to slow down climate change. Along with apathy, some of the challenges facing the industry when it comes to embracing sustainability include lack of knowledge, existing infrastructure and the perceived cost of implementing environmentally friendly changes.

The Music Sustainability Association (MSA), an inclusive, member-driven association that formed in 2020 and officially launched in October at the VenuesNow Conference in Seattle, and LIVE Green in the U.K. were set up to bring the industry together to tackle the climate crisis via collaboration and partnership.

The organizing committee for MSA includes representatives from AEG and the Touring Professionals Alliance (TPA). MSA has also established strategic partnerships with organizations such as REVERB / Music Climate Revolution, LIVE Green, the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), and the Tour Production Group (TPG).

“I am hopeful if these organizations are embraced, meaningful change can finally happen,” Martin says.

After all, music can bring us together and inspire us to be the best versions of ourselves.

The Global Citizen Live event – which aimed to combat poverty, protect the planet from climate change and increase vaccine access – raised more than $1.1 billion in commitments and pledges to fight extreme poverty, along with securing pledges for 60 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for developing countries and planting 157 million trees.

In addition to spreading the word while on stage at Global Citizen, Eilish worked with REVERB to make her 2022 arena trek, “Happier Than Ever: The World Tour,” as green as possible.

“From day one, we were involved with the agents and team to make sure that environmentalism was included in the deals from the beginning,” Lara Seaver, director of projects at REVERB, tells Pollstar. “We worked with the team at Wasserman and Live Nation and just made sure that that was an ongoing thread in the conversation. … When it comes from the top down, there’s a lot more momentum and incentive to make these changes.”

On the education side of things, REVERB set up eight to 10 booths each night in the arena concourse, where fans could visit with local nonprofits, learn about initiatives, register to vote, or take a climate quiz. Fans were incentivized to participate with the chance to win a signed ukulele from Eilish.

In addition to making sure the touring crew and backstage was as environmentally-friendly as possible, REVERB worked with the venues to eliminate single-use plastic water bottles, as well as plastic straws and cutlery. REVERB also pushed for the venues to increase vegan concessions options. Eilish’s Feb. 5 show at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena was nearly “zero waste,” with 92 percent of fan-generated waste diverted from landfills by being recycled, donated, composted or reused.

Live Nation, which launched its Green Nation Touring Program in 2021, is working toward hosting more zero waste concerts. Lucy August-Perna, director of global sustainability at Live Nation, previously told VenuesNow that LN’s environmental goals include eliminating single-use plastics at their events and cutting its carbon footprint in half over the next decade.

“Billie’s fans, that generation absolutely feels the crushing weight of climate demise and climate change,” REVERB’s Seaver says. “It’s empowering to know that as a group, as a community of fans, your little actions do add up. When you work together as a community of music fans, we are super powerful.”

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Music Sustainability Association’s
Top Five Steps To Industry Sustainability

  1. Operational Focus: Analyze every step of your operation to learn what your Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions are. Measure, reduce and then offset (with credible offsets).
  2. Fan Travel: Fan travel is the live industry’s biggest contributor to climate change. Work on reducing emissions of fan travel.
  3. Single-Use Waste: Embrace refillable, reuse cup and serveware systems. Avoid single-use items such as aluminum cups, straws, plastic water bottles, compostable cups, etc.
  4. Food: Embrace organic, locally
    sourced, plant-based food options as much as possible.
  5. Communicate: Use your platform to role model best sustainability practices and communicate to fans on sustainability engagement.

    Visit https://www.musicsustainability.org/ for more information.