Meet My Songwriting Partner, The Earth: How Brian Eno’s EarthPercent Is Helping Save The Planet With Cuts Of Publishing & Touring

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Helping Hands: Big Thief (James Krivchenia, Max Oleartchik, Adrianne Lenker, and Buck Meek) are donating a percentage of their touring grosses to EarthPercent to benefit sustainability. Pictured here, the cover of their 2019 album, Two Hands (4AD).

Leiber-Stoller, King-Goffin, Lennon-McCartney, Bob Dylan and Prince Rogers Nelson are among the greatest songwriters of all time. Perhaps soon a new name will be added to that pantheon: The Earth. It’s a distinct possibility if a new and wildly creative initiative by EarthPercent, an environmental foundation founded by Brian Eno, is successful. 

“The Earth as Your Co-writer is a beautiful idea in which we harness the poetic construct of The Earth as a co-writer of music and direct some of the income from our compositions towards tackling the climate emergency,” said Eno, the legendary musician, producer and outside-the-box thinker, in a statement. The organization raises funds from within the music industry and redistributes them to organizations working to end the scourge of climate change. His statement continued: “EarthPercent provides an easy way for the music industry to make a difference by asking artists to commit a small percentage of their songwriting revenue. All musicians are inspired by the precious planet we live on, so it’s fitting that we are now able to name The Earth as our co-writer.” 

Though Eno may now be against making music for airports (sorry), Eno is putting his money, time and resources where his sustainability goals lie. In February he released a new song with Hot Chip and Goddess entitled “Line in the Sand,” which has more than 500,000 Spotify streams. An accredited rights management entity, Unison, will collect performing and mechanical rights income for The Earth. And, it turns out, the Earth even has its own IPI number (011660 56 08 78) to help performing rights organizations collect funds.

“From the minute I heard the idea, I was so excited about it, it’s brilliant,” says Tom Wironen, who in addition to managing the band Big Thief is founder of the American extension of the UK charity EarthPercent US, along with Bruce Lampcov, Kurt Langer and Dawn Barger.

The Earth As Co-Writer initiative is only the latest, albeit perhaps most innovative, EarthPercent fundraising enterprise that already had artists contributing a small percentage of their touring revenues. The U.S. wing of EarthPercentage launched in 2020, which was not the greatest time for touring – thankfully that’s since changed. 

“Big Thief were one of the first artists to get involved with EarthPercent,” Wironen explains, “and are donating a percentage of their gross touring income to the organization.” 

Tom Wironen who manages Big Thief, also co-launched EarthPercent US.

“Hello. We are now contributing 1% of our gross touring income to @earthpercent, including income from last year’s U.S. tour,” Big Thief wrote in a Feb. 2022 Instagram post. “We are grateful to be part of this group which will grant money to organizations fighting the climate emergency in the most impactful ways. The hope is that something like this could spread to our peers, especially those making money and maybe even become a standard for artists and those around the music industry (labels, DSPs, publishers, managers, booking agents, etc.). We hope others will join us and commit to this cause.”

“A lot of artists care and are concerned about climate change, want to do something about it and recognize that touring is part of the problem,” says Langer, EarthPercent US board member. “On the live side, artists are very accustomed to giving a percentage of their income to the various stakeholders who help make their careers possible. That would be the agent, the manager, the business manager, lawyer, etc.  Often, when the tour is finished and the accounting is being done and the tour is being reconciled, there’s a line item for each of those professional services that come out as a percentage before the artist receives their income. So the idea was, ‘Well, wouldn’t it be really simple to think of planet Earth?’  It’s a very natural model to raise money to fight climate change, to invite artists to consider the Earth as a stakeholder in the value chain. We all know tours are incredibly carbon intensive and there’s a lot of work being done to make improvements.”

EarthPercent doesn’t use any artist contributions for administrative costs, rather it distributes all its funds to five different Action Areas: Energy Transition, Climate Justice, Legal & Policy Change, Protecting Nature and Greening Music. Specific EarthPercent grant partners as of Aug. 2022, include Reverb (see Leadoff  page 4), Julie’s Bicycle, A Greener Festival, Earthjustice, One Tree Planted and Uplift among others. 

The buy-in from artists and managers to EarthPercent’s Earth As Co-Writer initiative has taken the organization to another level. AURORA, Rostam Batmanglij, Fraser T Smith, Mount Kimbie, Anna Calvi, Simón Mejía (Bomba Estéreo) and Jacob Collier are among the artists signed on.

“The excitement around Earth As Your Cowriter has been strong,” Wironen says. “It feels like a really clear idea that has a lot of support, and everyone knows deep down that Mother Nature has a hand in every song that is written.”