Without question, the live music industry is facing a time of unprecedented disruption and uncertainty due to Covid-19. However, even before the pandemic took hold, there were issues within the sector, notably its role within the global climate crisis. Recent research suggests the live music industry releases approximately 405,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year, creating a serious impact on the environment. Audiences, artists and the industry as a whole are therefore exploring what can be done to improve sustainability, as it is clear there is no single correct answer.
Even incremental changes can have a significant impact. For instance, around a third of the greenhouse gas emissions from live music are believed to come from audience travel, so to combat this, Declan McKenna’s upcoming tour offered a specific time slot for existing ticket holders to swap to a closer venue after more dates were added. Similarly, Billie Eilish’s world tour attempted to use as little plastic as possible, encouraging the use of reusable cups and bottles, while also working with environmental non-profit Reverb to create an “eco-village” experience at each venue to educate audiences.
As you might imagine, there are some artists taking this further. Massive Attack have been working alongside researchers from the Tyndall Centre in Manchester to try and plan the most environmentally sustainable tour possible, with changes made in every possible aspect, from travel to catering to production itself. Coldplay are probably at the furthest end of the scale, having refused to tour their latest album, stating they will not do so unless responsible measures are found.
The Coronavirus pandemic has emphasised the value of live music in our lives, but this will definitely be one of the areas in which we see a “new normal.”