Q’s With Michael Martin, Founder & CEO Of Effect Partners & r.Cup: ‘Business Should Be Doing Good Things For The People & The Planet’

It Ain’t Easy Being Green: Michael Martin, founder & CEO of Effect Partners and r.Cup

For more than three decades Michael Martin has led efforts to raise awareness of environmental issues and make the music industry more sustainable including his work with the non-profit Concerts for the Environment and producing multiple nationally broadcast Earth Day events.

Back in the 1980s he was an investment banker on Wall Street – and then the Exxon Valdez oil spill happened. He explains, “I’m a capitalist but I felt like business should be doing good things for the health of the people and the planet. Not bad things. So, I left investment banking.”

He’s worked with artists including U2, Roger Waters, Jack Johnson and The Rolling Stones, as well as developing sustainability/marketing strategies for brands including Live Nation, AEG, Toyota, UPS, Target, Clif Bar, and Apple.

Martin serves as the founder and CEO of Effect Partners, an organization that works with musicians and brands for climate and social justice causes, and r.Cup, the first national reusable platform of its kind.

He also helped form the Music Sustainability Association, which is bringing together professionals from across the music business to reduce the industry’s environmental impact.

Pollstar: What do you see as the highlights of your career you’re most proud of?
Michael Martin: The first thing is creating the sustainability movement for the live event industry. Starting in the early 1990s, I introduced tour and venue greening, recycling, and composting, eco-villages, Co2 offsets, and so on when I produced the nationally broadcast Earth Day Stadium Festivals. Around this time, I created the Enviro-rider™ which really became the Bible for green touring and is still in use today. In addition to working with dozens of other artists, I’m extremely proud of the work I’ve done with U2 over the years – from creating new categories of CO2 offsets to powering their backline with hydrogen and constantly innovating. And, of course working with Kim and Jack Johnson on helping them establish their environmental touring model and more.

Secondly, in the late ’90s I was reading about this thing called “global warming” no one was talking about. So, by partnering with Coran Capshaw and Dave Matthews Band I was able to get the top 20 environmental groups to work together for the first time ever. DMB’s leadership led to the creation of the first-ever global warming campaign: “Ben & Jerry’s DMB One Sweet Whirled” ice cream flavor.

And last, is creating the movement for reuse in the live event space in the U.S. by launching r.Cup. I just finished a call this morning with the White House. We are producing a huge press conference with all the federal agencies announcing reuse commitments.

This came about because of the movement that r.Cup has created in conjunction with the music industry and artists like U2, Rod Stewart, Mumford & Sons, Maggie Rogers, Radiohead, Jack Johnson, and Dave Matthews. AEG has been invited to participate due to their leadership in reuse for the industry.

Recycling does not work at live events. Single-use waste impacts climate change, fills up our landfills, creates toxic waste and is an environmental justice issue. Reuse is easy. Fans love it. Servers love it. And, it’s the right thing to do. The industry is leading the reuse movement!

How many venues is r.Cup working with?

Over four dozen venues and festivals. We’re operating in Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and D.C., and adding 10 more markets over this next year.

What’s the latest with Effect Partners?
The White House event is really an Effect Partners project. We just greened Roger Waters’ tour last year and are consulting festivals, tours and venues on their sustainability initiatives. More and more entities are embracing sustainability and we are here to help.

And what about the Music Sustainability Association?
The MSA is a coalition of music industry professionals and organizations who represent all sectors of the business. We are now inviting all industry leaders to join us as founding partners. Upstaging, REVERB, r.Cup, and Rock-it Global are all founding partners with others signing on. Next steps are launching the sustainability “help line” and doing a materiality assessment to prioritize action and related business cases leading to systemic change. The MSA will also release the next iteration of the sustainability resource guide.

What do you think the industry is still missing when it comes to sustainability?
Choosing sustainable options can actually save money. It’s absolutely critical that real actions are taken, not greenwashing, where nothing happens. The other thing is pre-competitive collaboration: There’s no reason why everybody shouldn’t be working together on sustainability.

In Lititz [Pennsylvania] they’re working on some collaborative efforts – it’s really cool what Clair Brothers and other companies are doing.

We need to look at operations logistics with a focus on the environment. How could the industry be structured differently? For example, so much of staging is interchangeable. Could some of a production reside in each individual city as opposed to transporting hundreds of trucks carrying the same stuff?