As the music industry adapts to the new era of streaming and TikTok trends, there is another shift that has to be made: making the industry more economically sustainable.
With summer tours kicking off this month, many artists have spent a substantial amount of time working towards curating an exciting show experience, with minimal waste and lower CO2 emissions. Most, if not all, concertgoers aren’t generally thinking about the impact that their favorite artist is making on the environment, but they should: a tour like Coldplay’s “Music Of The Spheres” tour can bring in over 50K eager fans per show, each with their own unique carbon footprint.
Artists like Coldplay have teamed up with various organizations to help encourage their fans to educate themselves about their individual impact on the environment and provide resources for them to reduce said impact. Coldplay’s tour aims to be as waste-free as possible, with a focus on recycling and reusing. Before the show, the band introduces a short film with different ways their tour has worked with venues across the world to ensure a cleaner show. Single-use plastics have been discouraged from their tours, being replaced with special edition Ball Aluminum Cups, which can be taken and re-used, or recycled at the venue. The band also sells custom water bottles, with proceeds going directly to ClientEarth. Their popular LED wristbands are also made of plant-based, compostable material. These little steps make a larger impact when they are being promoted to thousands of fans every night. It also helps when they make it fun– fans are invited to dance on kinetic floors and use stationary bikes to help power the stages. Just one night on the bike can generate 11kWh which can power their c-stage performances.
“Artists and music have always been at the forefront of social change and advocacy.” Live Nation’s Director of Global Sustainability Lucy August-Perna said, explaining that big artists have the power to inspire action from an individual level. August-Perna notes that Coldplay worked for over a year in order to make sure every aspect of the tour was addressed in order to see where they could improve their sustainability efforts. One aspect that was often overlooked was fan transportation to and from the show.
“Our Green Nation rep worked together with Coldplay management and local public transport authorities to help incentivize and subsidize public transportation to and from the shows,” August-Perna explains. For their MetLife tour stop, fans were encouraged to purchase railway tickets instead of driving, which were discounted in partnership with NJ Transit. Other fans can log their commitment to sustainability on the World Tour App to receive discount codes. “It has been a win-win for everyone involved, bringing awareness to an important solution to climate change – public transportation infrastructure. It also helps reduce traffic congestion, which is good for the venue, fans, and the local community. These kinds of high impact, focused executions are what we’re looking to accomplish.”
While Coldplay has been actively working on its suitability effort for many years, other big-name artists have been following in their footsteps. Billie Eilish and Shawn Mendes, who are both embarking on worldwide tours this year, have teamed up with REVERB, an organization that has been educating fans and artists alike about the environmental impact of their tours.
REVERB brings initiatives like free water stations and battery recycling to various tour stops, with some stops offering donation boxes and bringing in local organizations for community outreach. REVERB manager of communications Chris Spinato says that fan outreach is a major component when it comes to making an impact. “Much like a guitar tech or sound engineer, our ‘on-site coordinator’ acts as a green tech, making sure that all sustainability measures for the tour are in place,” Spinato says. “Those measures can include waste diversion including recycling, composting, reusable service ware, and water refill stations backstage, in catering, and on buses, collection of batteries for proper disposal (or donation to local shelters if they are still useable), coordinating local food for catering, and much more.”
For Harry Styles’ sold-out 2021 tour, REVERB helped eliminate over 30,000 single-use plastic bottles over nearly 100 tour dates. The practice has been trickling down to merch creation as well — Eilish partnered with REVERB to create a sustainable edition of her album on vinyl, created with vegetable-based inks, a recycled sleeve and jacket, and bio-wrap “plastic” that is made from sugar cane. Lorde, who has been actively promoting sustainable practices by not physically releasing Solar Power cds, also worked with REVERB to create her eco-friendly merch.
Despite the big-name acts being at the forefront of the sustainability movement, these practices can easily be transmitted to smaller bands without a sustainability team. Encouraging fans to take the necessary steps to even just be aware of their impact can help trigger a widespread movement. “It would have been great if it had been happening decades ago, but that’s true of the environmental issues in every industry,” Spinato adds. “What’s unique about the music industry is it not only has a real opportunity to meaningfully reduce its environmental impacts, but also an outsized ability to influence change. Music has always had immense cultural power to change hearts and minds. If we can unleash that power to combat the climate crisis and other environmental issues, big things will happen. It’s already starting.”
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.