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Can The Music Industry Afford To Go Green?

30th March 2009 @ 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Venue: The Basement, PRS for Music, Copyright House

FREE CASH!

Launching at this debate on sustainability which will see the likes of Tony Wadsworth asking whether the music business can afford to make real sacrifices in the name of the environment,  Julie’s Bicycle will unveil a unique initiative providing grants to help music companies with carbon audits, training and tools for sustainable energy management.

Environmental coalition Julie’s Bicycle have partnered with the Knowledge Connect programme on the initiative, which will provide support worth £3,000 or £10,000 to London-wide music businesses with between 4 and 50 employees.  The aim is to enable them to access the knowledge, skills and expertise required to develop greener businesses and develop innovative ideas for a low carbon creative economy.

The grants will be of particular interest to businesses operating in the live sector, which is believed to account for the vast majority of music industry CO2 emissions.


TOPIC: This session takes as its jump-off the established fact of climate change, with the only remaining question being one of scale.  Are we facing a 2 degree temperature rise or, as latest science would have it, 7 degrees?  One thing appears certain – in a 7 degree scenario, all bets are off.

Accepting this broad premise, the session will consider the industry’s ability and preparedness to adopt the S-Factor: Sustainability.

The question however, in a period of chronic contraction for the record business and where the live industry is bracing itself for an inevitable decline, not to mention the universal lack of financing is: “Can the music industry afford to go green?”

Sure, we have our part to play.  The UK music industry currently produces half a million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, with 43 per cent coming from audience travel to live events – a real cause for concern that led Festival Republic founder, Melvin Benn, to recently comment “The most environmentally sustainable festival is one that doesn’t happen”.

Then there’s physical product – recent research reveals that the recording industry could reduce its packaging emissions by a whopping 95% by switching from plastic jewel case to card wallets.*

And at some point business will have to engage with the UK’s own domestic, legally-binding emission reduction targets of at least 80% by 2050, or 60% by 2025 for London-based businesses.

But amidst an unprecedented global economic meltdown (no pun intended), is this not a topic for later?  The costs of green investment being reason enough to wait for the upturn, for government to lead, or to simply applaud all things green from the sidelines but politely bow out when it comes to action.

Others, meanwhile, argue that not only does the environmental imperative require us to act now, but that greening-up businesses, can and does produce a positive economic pay-back to industry.  Reduced future costs, greater efficiencies, brand leadership and technological advancement are just some of the benefits directly attributable to sustainable business activity.

There is a cost and resources issue however, which, for many, remains an obstacle to engagement in sustainability.  Whilst some in the music industry are able to commit sizeable resources into real, practical change (e.g. Live Nation has recruited an environmental manager to develop and implement a sustainability strategy and introduced an environmental scoring system across venues to identify and implement improvements) and indeed artists themselves often lead by example (Radiohead’s venue choices take public transport access into consideration and Jack Johnson requires venues to recycle their waste), there is legitimate concern at the costs of adopting meaningful sustainable practice that businesses will have to bear.

How sensible and practical are the recommendations of a typical environmental audit anyway?  And to what extend could businesses wishing to go green just be suckered into spending on technologies, like solar panels, which unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, could take several years of use before even saving the energy that’s gone into manufacturing them?

We’re in an influential industry, might our efforts not be better spent getting the message out to consumers?


* Julie’s Bicycle commission: ‘Impacts and Opportunities: Reducing the Carbon Emissions of CD Packaging’, publ. 2009
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