We are more aware than ever of the environmental consequences of our actions - and the music industry has begun to take steps towards becoming as environmentally sustainable as possible. Artists such as The 1975 and Billie Eilish have recently committed to make efforts to address their own impact. The following infographic shows some of the environmental costs of music (US data) through the years, and provides a fascinating insight.
I spoke to one expert, whose pioneering work has seen her become a thought leader on the topic, Gwendolenn Sharp of The Green Room. She works to make the music industry as environmentally and socially sustainable as possible. I met Gwendolenn in my work with JUMP European Music Market Accelerator, in which she is a fellow.
Matt Errington of SMB: The School of Music Business meets Gwendolenn Sharp.
Could you tell us more about the work you do with The Green Room and the positive impact it’s having?
After working for many years for various festivals, music venues, cultural organisations and environmental NGOs in France, Poland and Tunisia, I have founded a non-profit organisation called The Green Room, which develops tools and creative solutions to address a core problem, making the music industry as environmentally and socially sustainable as possible, while inspiring greater ambition and without compromising the essence of artistic field work and co-creative relations.
Besides supporting bands, managers, labels and touring agents, I am currently in the final phase of my fellowship with JUMP, a Creative Europe project supporting innovative ideas for the music industry. I am developing a Toolkit called Green Your Touring!, highlighting low-carbon tips, case studies, good practices and solutions for musicians and technicians on the road.
We have just launched a crowdfunding campaign at the MaMA Festival and Convention in Paris in order to help finance the toolkit and related activities.
Please feel free to check, support & share the Green Your Touring! campaign.
Environmental sustainability has become really important to many artists and is being discussed more than ever in the music industry. What changes can we all make, whether as business professionals or artists, to become more sustainable?
Start with something, even if it’s small. If you are in an organisation, start with a conversation with your team, and brainstorm about what could be the first steps you could take. Most events and organisation tend to try to solve the problems when they occur, but the best way to go is probably to implement long-term environmental strategies to prevent them. For artists, integrating these practices can make them more resilient to the fluctuations of the industry.
The UK has always been a great source of inspiration for us working with sustainability in the arts & culture field.
The UK has always been a great source of inspiration for us working with sustainability in the arts & culture field, with organisations such as Julie’s Bicycle (who have just received the WOMEX Professional Excellence Award 2019 for their work and commitment to environmental sustainability in the creative arts sector), Creative Carbon Scotland, A Greener Festival, Powerful Thinking… If you are an organisation, a venue, a festival, a booking agency, and don’t know where to start, you can definitely turn to them for advice and support. Thematic guides Smart Energy for Festivals and Events or the Raw Foundation’s Plastic-free Festivals and Events guide are available for free online and great sources for tips and good practices to be implemented.
Many in the industry are making genuinely positive changes. What developments have you seen that are encouraging?
When they are aware of their environmental impact, the majority of professionals from the music industry, touring artists and crew behind the stage have limited time, information and resources, and don’t know where to get advice on how to face these issues.
The next European Forum on Music which will take place in Bonn next year will focus on “Climate Action: Music as a Driver for Change
The field of live music is caught-up in this very contradiction: the more you get your message and values across, the more physical impact it has on the environment. Bands are facing pressure to tour more and more, and it is very unsettling to try to uphold a high standard of environmental ethics with this nomadic lifestyle. Sustainability is not a trend, it is a necessity if we still want to be playing gigs on this planet in the future. We need to find creative, relevant and realistic ways to reduce this impact, tailored to the reality of the music ecosystem and short-term challenges.
On a European level, networks and organisations are also taking a step up and are advocating for change. For instance, the next European Forum on Music which will take place in Bonn next year will focus on “Climate Action: Music as a Driver for Change”.
Is there a role for the music consumer in eco-responsibility? What can fans do themselves to create change?
Definitely yes. For change to happen within the music sector, everyone, from the larger structure to the individual, needs to be moving in the same direction. In the same way festivals or artists can influence behavioural change, consumers can influence the industry. This can range from using your bike or public transport to attend an event, bringing your own reusable cup and water bottle, or being more conscious about our streaming consumption to boycotting art organisations funded by oil companies or even carbon-offsetting by donating to meaningful environmental projects.
Please support & share the Green Your Touring! campaign