A love of music connects artists with their fans – and this same dynamic is uniting them in the fight against climate change. Through their reach and influence, and now with a pledge by the industry, musicians are helping to tackle this crisis.
EARTH is dying, and humanity is potentially screwed, and we’ve only got ourselves to blame. The recent pandemic has taught us so many things and changed the way we think about the future.
Before Covid struck, the carbon footprint from globetrotting tours was massive; it was all-too common for DJs to fly between three European cities in a single weekend. Festivals and concert organisers were highly criticised over the levels of waste they created.
But last year, a series of announcements by Music Declares Emergency (MDE) – a group dedicated to guiding the music industry’s response to the global climate and ecological emergency – challenged the idea that the music industry is not taking the climate crisis seriously.
Now summer is almost here, we are ready to a don our waterproofs for the festival season and to attend concerts, so the pressure is on for musicians and the entire industry to combat the environmental impact caused by constant touring and merchandising.
And after MDE’s announcements last year, finally, the music industry has started to recognise the importance of limiting carbon emissions associated with touring and playing. Record labels and artists have joined together to tackle this climate action by signing the Music Climate Pact. By engaging with the issue and raising awareness, musicians are making a direct impact on the music industry and on global culture.
Last year, British independent label Ninja Tune announced its detailed plans and made environmental sustainability a priority – divesting its funds and pensions from fossil fuels and installing renewable energy systems in its London HQ. The label is encouraging the pressing plants that supply its vinyl to switch to green energy.
Beggars Group, which includes indie labels such as 4AD, XL, and Rough Trade has also announced major new carbon reduction commitments. Earth Percent – a new idea that aims to raise £72million by 2030 from the industry itself to transition towards sustainability – has also been announced. This proposal is for artists, companies, and individuals to commit a small percentage of their revenue to Earth Percent. That money will be redistributed to organisations working on the climate emergency, including those focused on the music industry, such as A Greener Festival, Music Declares Emergency, and Julie’s Bicycle.
These initiatives are not the first signs of change. In the past, several artists, including Coldplay, Massive Attack, Ellie Goulding, and Radiohead, have spoken out against climate change and have made changes to their work.
The Grammy Award-winning young singer, Billie Eilish, caught our attention in 2015 when she released her debut single Ocean Eyes. Soon after that, she became one of the most recognised and beloved voices in pop music. With over 100 million followers on Instagram and over 42 million monthly listeners on Spotify, Eilish has a huge audience and now she is using that massive platform to confront the climate crisis.
Eilish has recently announced a new climate-focused event Overheated which will take place in London. The young artist has spoken about climate change in the past, and this tour just might be one of the greenest world tours the music industry has ever seen.
From introducing her fans to plant-based eating to eliminating carbon emissions, Eilish is constantly putting the spotlight on environmental issues. To make her tour more climate positive, she is partnering with REVERB – a non-profit that partners with musicians, concerts and festival venues to make events more eco-friendly.
The Overheated tour will be a multi-day event that will feature climate activists, musicians, and designers at venues across The O2 arena. Event guests will discuss the climate crisis and the work they are doing to make a difference.
All profits from ticket sales will be donated to Support + Feed and REVERB. Support + Feed founder Maggie Baird, Eilish’s mother, said of the event: “We are thrilled to be in London and to have this opportunity to connect and discuss different ways we can take action to mitigate the climate crisis.”
Elsewhere on May 4th, Canadian singer-songwriter Norine Braun released her 13th album, the groove-oriented Songs For Trees. Braun started working on the album last year during the ongoing pandemic to focus on climate change and the healing power of trees.
Songs For Trees is a concept album – the idea being that the listener is taken on a walk through the forest. Through her album, Braun hopes the journey will inspire people to help protect the trees.
On her album, Braun said in a statement: “Originally I had planned on devoting a song to each type of tree but as I began to read and research, I wanted to draw upon the global properties of trees in general as well as certain trees. The listener will still embark on a journey through the forest but with more thought as to the interconnectedness of all things.”
She added: “I was both inspired and overwhelmed by the wealth of information and the number of people from so many disciplines from around the world working hard to bring awareness to save the trees, planet, and ourselves. This was a benefit as there was much to draw upon for writing.”
According to a press release, 10 per cent of the net profit from digital downloads and CD sales will be donated to Tree Canada and One Tree Planted. For more information and to hear the album you can visit www.norinebraun.com.
Besides that, Music Declares Emergency has recently launched a new “US chapter”, with artists who are passionate about the climate crisis including Billie Eilish, Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, and Brian Eno. Along with those artists, the other artists who are supporting MDE’s new initiative are The 1975, Major Lazer, The Pretenders, Annie Lennox, Tom Morello, Tom Odell, and more. You can find the official MDE US homepage here.
Using sustainability as the focal point of their activities, artists are now paving the way for the music industry to be in tune with the climate crisis. Through active campaigning as well as leading by example in their efforts, artists are encouraging and enabling their fanbase to follow suit. In the future, we are hoping to see more and more green concerts and festivals.