Sustainability In Live Events: No More Excuses (Pollstar Live! Panel Recap) 

Kristen Fulmer of OVG360, Michael Martin of Effect Partners & r.Cup, Kristina “Red” Tanner of Activist Artists Management, Shelby Dixon of tvg Hospitality and Lucy August-Perna of Live Nation.

The title of the panel says it all – when it comes to sustainability in live events, it’s clear that the time to implement changes and make a difference is immediately. We’ve all heard the warnings from climate scientists, and as moderator Kristen Fulmer, Sustainability Director at OVG360, pointed out in her introduction, the effects of climate change are hard to ignore when the Los Angeles area was currently being hit by a historic storm that included a rare blizzard warning.

“These climatic disasters are affecting our fans and our business,” Fulmer said. “Let’s be real – these environmental disasters are affecting how everyone in this room can make money. … Let’s talk about the solutions. We know there are plenty of solutions we can take on, whether sustainable is in our title or not.”

While noting that it’s sad it’s taken the industry this long to truly embrace sustainability practices, Michael Martin, CEO and founder of Effect Partners and r.Cup, said that on the plus side, what’s “really exciting is Live Nation has Lucy [August-Perna], tvg has Shelby [Dixon] OVG has Kristen [Fulmer], along with Erik Distler of AEG and Lindsay Arell of ASM. The major [companies] are embracing it … fans are asking for it, [along with] communities, venues and especially artists. There is this need and players to make it happen.”

Martin added, “The next step is pre-competitive cooperation. It’s challenging for our industry because there are so many independent operators. … With the Music Sustainability Association, we’re creating a movement for the industry to work together.”

The Music Sustainability Association, which Martin helped form last year, is described as a “hyper inclusive member driven association by and for the music industry to collaborate, facilitate and expedite systemic solutions to the biggest environmental challenges that threaten the music industry and humanity.”

The importance of collaboration was emphasized repeatedly during the panel discussion. 

“My solution is working across our roster with all of our artists to enable them to use their platform and be as sustainable as they are touring and spread the word to their fans organically. Across the board, anything we learn we want to teach to others. We want to make sure as many other artists and managers have the same information so we can improve together,” said Kristina “Red” Tanner, who is a partner and Head of Ticketing, Commerce and Sustainability at Activist Artists Management. 

Fulmer added, “Cross collaboration is really important. All of our voices together can help come up with unique ideas.”

The actions artists take truly have a ripple effect when it comes to influencing their fans. 

As Tanner said, “Harry Styles on stage – does he pick up his Evian bottle or his reusable bottle? That’s a photo that will live on and on. Fans will see what their hero is doing.”

And though it can be daunting to know where to start when implementing changes, Tanner noted that artists “don’t have to be a stadium act to make an impact – you can at least try to offset your tour, be climate positive. We’re lucky on some of our bigger tours to make a really big impact, putting funds from each of those tickets toward charity components. But it’s really important that everyone try their best.”

Besides offsetting one’s tour or donating funds, other actions artists can take include demanding that venues have vegan options, implementing recycling and composting backstage, eliminating plastic straws and cups.

Speaking of cups, Martin had a chance during the panel to talk about r.Cup, the first national reusable platform of its kind. He explained that he started r.Cup after working with Lucy August-Perna, Head of Sustainability, Live Nation, when Live Nation brought in Effect Partners.

“Thought we had a great solution – replace plastic with composting and … but just about everything is sent to landfills anyway.” Martin added that he was “depressed for six months” and then he came across the solution in Europe with reusable cups.

He added, “The music and sports industry is in a unique place to create that change. It’s gotta be easy, make economic sense, gotta be clean and gotta make environmental sense. … The biggest challenge with people embracing reuse is the imagination gap. We have a complete turnkey system: drop off the size cups they want, we provide bins, pick up cups …

“We’ve implemented this all over the world. In over 100 cities in 35 states and 12 countries. The idea is that it works, the main takeaway is reuse is coming. It’s exciting it’s being embraced.”

Shelby Dixon, Group Sustainability Manager for tvg Hospitality, pointed out that data is key in regards to sustainability. 

“One of the main solutions we’re concentrating on is making sure we’re collecting data and analyzing it so we can really see our progress, most specially with waste and greenhouse gas emissions for scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions,” Dixon said. 

Fulmer encouraged attendees that just because you start measuring sustainability data, it doesn’t mean you have to disclose it to the world right away. But it’s “important to start measuring it so you can look at small changes over time, whether it’s getting rid of one material … Measuring data is not what anyone in this world wants to think about or do, but it’s necessary.”

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