Fay Milton, the director of creative strategy for climate change campaign group Music Declares Emergency and drummer with rock band Savages, provides her view on the significant steps that should be taken to help make live events more sustainable.
Live music was the backdrop to the creation of Music Declares Emergency back in 2019. Sat at Coachella as the first rebellion played out on London’s streets, I looked around the site and wondered how music, that constant connector of social action, creator and chronicler of change, seemed so detached from the emergency we all faced.
As a touring musician I knew the problems. How can we musicians talk about reducing carbon footprints whilst touring around the world? I knew that I wasn’t the only one, plenty of conversations with other artists and friends from the music industry revealed that many people were extremely worried and keen to act… but worrying itself isn’t enough, we needed action.
Fast forward to now and the engagement of the music community with the climate emergency, predominantly carbon footprint and sustainability of resources, is a top priority across the sector.
Venues, festivals, promoters, and agents across the UK are demonstrating that with solutions that range from solar panel installation and green walls and roofs to certifiable waste reduction and management solutions and sustainable riders. Carbon is being considered in tour routing and plastic bottles of water are a thankfully vanishing site in backstage areas while festivals have led the way in recyclable cup schemes.
Live Green’s Beyond Zero declaration, to devise and implement sustainable touring, builds on a raft of other initiatives, and shows that the mood music across live regarding action is overwhelmingly positive.
It would be great to see this impetus emboldening the live sector, as a major contributor to the UK exchequer and night time economy, to leverage its position and call for greater infrastructure support from local and national government.
Given audience travel is the major carbon contributor to any live event, the need for better transport logistics is clear.
A call from venues, promoters, and the wider live music community for improvements in public transport provision would offer a massive opportunity to significantly reduce the carbon cost of getting fans to and from events. It would also, I believe, receive massive public support.
Later-running services that allow fans to get home after shows, better cycle lanes and safe street lighting provision are headline measures that could make a real difference.
Given the leading role that live music can play in the post-Covid recovery of our economic centres, such asks weld building back better with the stated commitments of the UK government to transition to a net zero economy.
Similarly, EV touring is a long distant possibility with the current paucity of charging options in the UK. Venues are a potentially potent site for EV charging but, in the wake of Covid, such a financial burden for a wider public good should not be their burden. Action from the government or private sector to partner with venues to deliver EV charging would open up the potential for zero-carbon movement of artists and crew and greater public availability of charging provision for the wider public.
The commitment of the UK live music industry, and the industry in general, is no longer in question. Where we can now make a real difference is in using our voice to advocate for the infrastructure changes needed to fully address the climate crisis and continue the journey to a genuinely net zero live sector.