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At the Music Industry’s First North American Climate Summit, Cooperation — Not Competition — Is the Focus 

Mr. Nimbus | 02/09/2024

This past Monday (Feb. 5), roughly 300 people across music industry sectors gathered at The Novo theater in downtown Los Angeles for the first -ever North American music industry climate summit. Outside, sheets of rain came down during unusually heavy storms in Southern California, adding a sense of urgency – and purpose – to an event meant to catalyze the music industry into taking meaningful action on the issue.  

Organized by the Music Sustainability Alliance (MSA) – a neutral body that functions as a sustainability convener and resource for the entire industry – the Music Sustainability Summit featured eight hours of panels on climate-related topics, from carbon emissions related to fan travel to environmentally responsible food sourcing at events. Attendees were encouraged to (and did) bring their own water bottles and lanyards, with reusable cups on hand and a plant-based lunch served with bamboo plates and cutlery.   

The event was a watershed moment for the music industry’s relationship with climate change, marking the first-time leaders of all sectors of the industry came together to discuss the issue and commit to creating systemic change. Enthusiasm around the event – which had to move to a larger venue to accommodate interest and drew a big crowd even in inclement weather – demonstrated that the industry is eager, even desperate, to become more sustainable and use the platform of music to inspire and catalyze a cultural movement for climate action. 

Beyond knowledge sharing, the summit succeeded in bringing together stakeholders in the music industry’s fight against climate change, solidifying and expanding this community and shoring up the collective knowledge base. The summit was hosted by Joel Makower, a business sustainability expert and journalist whose depth of knowledge on the subject was matched by a thoughtful, often funny demeanor that brought levity to an often very existential seeming problem. 

“The good news we don’t hear enough about is that we already have the solutions to climate change that work and are affordable,” noted one panelist. “How do I know this? Because we’ve scienced the s— out of it.” 

(The summit was held under the Chatham House Rule, which advises that anyone who comes to a meeting is free to use information from that meeting, but is not allowed to reveal who made any particular comment. This rule was enacted so that summit attendees could speak freely in order to allow the event to have the highest impact. Billboard was the media sponsor of the Summit and agreed to abide by this Rule.) 

Representatives for the MSA tell Billboard that following the summit, the plan is to keep momentum going through the formation of working groups. The MSA — lead by president and co-founder Amy Morrison, director Eleanor Anderson, co-founder and board member Michael Martin and board member Kurt Langer — will function as admin for these groups, helping bring people together, organize meetings and take notes to ensure conversations turn into action.

The MSA will also host monthly webinars to focus on specific issues. The first one next month will include a vote on how the industry can use its platforms to encourage audiences to be climate-minded voters. The summit will become an annual event, scheduled to happen annually on the day after the Grammys. Additionally, the MSA is working on accessible online content including an updated resource guide and other educational materials. 

The Music Sustainability Summit 2024

Music Sustainability Alliance staff Kurt Langer, Amy Morrison, Eleanor Anderson, and Michael Martin

Gilbert Flores

A crucial part of the plan is to have employees from competing companies engage with each other in a pre-competitive environment to share information and take steps that will be necessary for all companies to enact to meaningfully address climate change. The summit demonstrated that these precompetitive conversations are possible, with one panel featuring chief sustainability officers from Live Nation, AEG, ASM Global and Oak View Group, who told the audience they were all friendly with each other anyway.   

Here are a few of the many things learned at the inaugural event.   

The Music Industry Has Oversized Influence On The Issue  

While it’s not yet clear just how much carbon emissions the music industry is responsible for, it’s likely that this number is relatively small in comparison to other industries. But the influence the industry has on climate change is massive, with many speakers emphasizing that because music affects culture — and the hearts, minds and motivations of listeners — the effect the industry can have on the issue is tremendous.  

“Music makes culture,” one speaker observed, and thus determines “what things in culture become normalized.”    

Artists Can Do a Lot, But They Can’t Do It All  

There were many conversations about the effect artists can have in terms of educating their audiences on climate change and motivating fans to take action. These conversations observed that authenticity is the key to successful initiatives and that fans find it most inspiring when artists take action with them. Billie Eilish’s sustainability efforts were cited many times throughout the day, including a statistic that 130,000 fan actions resulted from Eilish’s climate change initiatives during her last tour.   

These discussions advised, however, that artists cannot take on the burden of responsibility alone, with everyone in the industry responsible for initiating action, while also working with legislators.  

Practical Solutions Are Available Now  

A presentation on waste management noted that four billion single use cups are thrown away at live events every year. But the music industry is leading the re-use movement in the United States through a company called r.Cup — which provides reusable cups in venues and at festivals and which has eliminated 43 tons of plastic so far. Both AEG and Live Nation have employed successful reusable cup programs at various events.  

Emissions: Fan Travel Is The Leading Issue  

In terms of energy use, a panel on diesel fuel noted that the quickest way to decarbonize the music industry would be to remove diesel generators from event sites. While this measure is currently cost prohibitive and not yet possible, as most legacy rental companies would need a massive infrastructure upgrade to make it happen, the panel emphasized that it’s likely the technology to make this happen is forthcoming. 

This conversation also included the use of HVOs (renewable diesel) that reduces CO2 emissions by 90%, along with talk about the option for currently available batteries to replace diesel generators in ancillary uses like parking lots and site lighting, etc. The hybrid use of batteries and generators was also discussed.  

During the panel, it was noted that fan travel contributes to 50-80% of music industry carbon emissions, an acute issue given that many festivals happen in far-flung locations and that even many cities connected to the grid don’t offer public transportation. This conversation illustrated the need for promoters, venues, festival producers, fans, artists and municipalities to work together.  

Food Is a Crucial Piece of Puzzle — And Action On It Can Happen Now 

With animal agriculture being a major contributor to climate change, deforestation and air and water pollution, a food-focused panel demonstrated that the industry – from massive arena concerts to video shoots to award shows and meetings – can impact this in a positive way through plant-based catering and concessions.  

It was suggested that even large venues that get food from large, national distributors could open up one plant-based concession stand to a local business or allow this business to park a food truck outside. Changing menus to include plant-based options is doable now, and a good place to start in terms of action that has the potential to change people’s everyday food choices.  

Support And Feed, an organization founded by Eilish and Finneas’ mother Maggie Baird that works to mitigate climate change and increase food security by driving global demand, acceptance, and accessibility of plant-based food, is considered a leader in this space. The food panel also cited that roughly 8.8 million gallons of water were saved thanks to Eilish’s last tour switching to plant-based catering.  

This post was originally published on this site

Written by Mr. Nimbus

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