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Can The Music Industry Afford To Go Green? – MusicTank

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Can The Music Industry Afford To Go Green?

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Launching at MusicTank’s think tank debate on sustainability, environmental coalition Julie’s Bicycle will unveil a unique initiative providing grants to help music companies with carbon audits, training and tools for sustainable energy management.



Launching at MusicTank’s think tank debate on sustainability, environmental coalition Julie’s Bicycle will unveil a unique initiative providing grants to help music companies with carbon audits, training and tools for sustainable energy management. Many music organisations have made great strides in cleaning up their acts but, as we lumber through this recession, how many green initiatives will be sidelined by cost cutting measures? Many will argue that we can’t afford to go green, not just yet at any rate. This evening’s debate will sort fact from fiction and examine what sustainability measures are financially sustainable at this point in time.

Can The Music Industry Afford To Go Green?

30 March 2009

1. Keynote: CATHERINE BOTTRILL, Energy Researcher, Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute

Hello, I am delighted to be here, what I hope to do is put music industry and the emissions of the music industry in context.

About two weeks ago the international scientific community met in Copenhagen to discuss the latest climate science and to feed into some key messages to the policy makers that will be discussing the international agreement in Copenhagen at the end of the year.  That agreement is critical for having a global agreement of targets of cutting emissions and what the timetable for those reductions will be, post Kyoto which actually ends in 2012, so at the moment there’s a huge vacuum of what we’re going to be doing post 2012.

So I wanted to run through the six key messages and then finish with talking about how the UK music industry might be meeting the challenge that is before us.

Message 1 – Climate Trends

The first message that came from Copenhagen was around climate change trends, that the increased temperatures are an increasing cause for concern, so for example acidification in the Oceans.  Oceans are very important carbon sinks, absorbing huge amounts of emissions from fossil fuels.  At the moment, that carbon sink isn’t working effectively and is leading to acidification and loss of oxygen in the oceans.  This will have ramifications for fish stocks, and our fish stocks are a vital source of our food.

Message 2 – Social Disruption

The second message coming from Copenhagen was social disruption.  An example of that is the Tibetan plateau, the glacial melt from which feeds eight major rivers in Asia.  That water is supporting two billion people and the agriculture for rice paddies, so you can imagine if those Tibetan Plateau glaciers disappear and they don’t get that amount of water feeding the river ways it has a huge implication for agriculture and the livelihoods of thos people in Asia causing social disruption.

Message 3 – Long Term Strategies

The third message is that we need long term strategies, the UK, Europe and the US need to consider 80% reduction of greenhouse gasses in the UK by 2050.  The UK Government so far is the only country to legislate to make that reduction, so the UK is committed to an 80% reduction; the big challenge is how we will actually deliver that, the pathways to that 80% reduction, but it is a very positive move that now that legislation is in place.

So just to give you an idea of context in the UK we’re emitting approx 650  million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year, so by 2050 we will need to get down to 130 million tonnes per annum.

Just to put that 130m in context, when I did the ‘First Step’ report which looked at the UK greenhouse gas emissions the UK was emitting half a million tonnes, so suddently the UK music industry by 2050 would be responsible for 3% of the UK’s emissions, so that’s quite significant.

Message 4 – Equity Dimension

The forth message from Copenhagen was the equity dimension. Climate change is global in scale and also has intra equity dimensions.  That is it affects people within the same time period, so affecting people living in India and here in the UK today.

And then there is the inter generational dimensions -future generations, our children and grandchildren – because the build up of CO2 in the atmosphere will have implications for many years to come, it poses a very unique problem for humanity to think about.

I just wanted to read a quote from the president Mohammad Nashied of the Maldives Islands, who have committed within the next ten years to be carbon, and climate neutral.  They are going to massively transform their energy system and as a developing nation, this will be a huge task.

He said, “People often tell me that caring for the environment is too difficult, too expensive or too much bother.  Installing solar panels and wind turbines doesn’t come cheap, but when I read those science reports from Copenhagen I know there is only one choice.  Going green might cost a lot, but refusing to act now will cost us the Earth.”

I think that political leadership is required from many leaders and not just the president of the Maldives.

Message 5 – Inaction is Inexcusable

The fifth message from Copenhagen is that inaction is inexcusable.  Here in the UK we are locked into a fossil fuel economy, but somehow over the next 50 years we need to transform this to achieve the 80% reduction.

Nick Stern who wrote the review, ‘The Economic Cost Of Climate Change’, put the cost of addressing climate change at 1-2% of GDP, so it’s do-able but there’s a lot of inertia.

Message 6 – Meeting the Challenge

To leave you on a more positive note, Copenhagen was criticised because there was still quite a lot of gloom, but I think the climate scientists that I work with are saying it is definitely possible to meet this challenge head on, it just requires ingenuity and a clear pathway as to how we are going to reduce emissions.

The last two years there has been some really great activity in the UK music industry demonstrating the kind of leadership that is required.

So I just wanted to highlight a few of the things that I know have worked from working with Julie’s Bicycle.

Just recently launched and in the pilot stage are the Industry Green Standards, a set of standards for companies to measure their performance by and make commitments to reduce.Those industry green standards are formed around four key principles:

  1. Engagement – throughout your company, throughout your supply chain and audience;
  2. Measurement – identifying where those key sources of green house gasses are, measuring them and identifying where your starting point is;
  3. Commitment – committing to reductions;
  4. Disclosure – to show you’ll be accountable for those emissions and reducing them.

Julie’s Bicycle is piloting the Industry Green Standards with CD Packaging, the first album to carry the kite mark was the Brit Awards 2009 CD and they showed they could cut emissions switching from a plastic jewel case to a card wallet, and make a 90% reduction in the emissions from that packaging.

One of the key things is the technology and the solutions are available – they just need implementing and so I think that switching from plastic jewel cases to card demonstrates the possibility of transition.

The Premises Studios have applied for a government grant to be fitted with something to supply electricity in their recording studios.  Latitude Festival will be piloting the Industry Green Standard this Summer at their festival with audience travel.  Then we have the O2 Arena who are working on their lighting systems with LEDs which have significantly lower emissions.

Continental Clothing Company has an Earth positive range for which they have carefully carbon foot-printed the full lifecycle of their t-shirts.  The typical t-shirt is 7kg of CO2 per garment and the Earth Positive range is just 2.4 kilos.  They are working with their supply chain in industry, the factory runs on renewables and they ues organic cotton, so it is a very positive initiative.

The final example is the A-G rating, about whichmany of you may be familiar?  Buildings over 1000 sq metres will be required to have an A-G rating if the public has access to them.  It is starting off with public buildings but it is an example of energy efficiency.

Many of you may have already seen the ‘First Step’ report that I worked on, that was available April 2008.  One of our key starting points was for the industry to look at their emissions together; you can access the full details of the report online.

I’d also like to flag up three key priority areas that came out of ‘First Step’, these are CD packaging, venue energy use and audience travel.

The commitment under packaging shows how the industry can really work together on climate change, some of the major labels and Beggars group have committed to a 10% reduction in their CD packaging in 2009;Tony Wadsworth has been leading the work with that group.

To highlight the green activities of the music industry this year:

  1. A series of these industry Green Pilots;
  2. Julie’s Bicycle preparation of what they are calling the Carbon Sink – a repository of information that companies can provide about their energy use and get a calculation of their carbon emissions;
  3. Training to be made available to empower staff to really act upon these initiatives and work with their own companies, through to their supply chains.

As with all things, it will be much easier if the knowledge is shared, and I found with ‘First Step’ there were lots of exemplary things going on in the music industry but they all need to be scaled up to a critical mass.

Just like the labels have committed to reductions this could be extended throughout the industry, and there has already been quite a lot of international interest in learning from and replicating of Julie’s Bicycle, so there’s lots of interesting ways of this working.

Finally, the two big research areas to focus on this year will be International Touring, which we couldn’t cover in ‘First Step’ and Digital Music Delivery.

The really, really important thing is that we must keep our eye on the ball for Copenhagen in December.


Tony Wadsworth (Chairman, BPI): I wasn’t with Julie’s Bicycle from its inception but came along a few months later, and was very impressed and energised by the people in the room and the belief that we needed to do something and could achieve something.

Plus the people on the JB board were some very senior people from all walks of the music industry.  So it was pretty evident to me that this could deliver, so I threw myself wholeheartedly into it.

I got very much involved in the CD packaging part of it, was such a big target with possible savings of up to 95% of emissions, so I led that project.

We then did more research, as everything JB does is based on very solid science, so we looked at many different CD packages and looked at the supply change and this this led to the report ‘Impacts and Opportunities’.

The next step was then to work out how to get labels to buy into it, and it struck me that nothing ever gets done unless you have a target.  You need to pin people down and make a firm commitment and it would be our job to help them reduce their emissions quicker.

And there are things that are easier to do across the industry rather than on your own, certainly the big companies and many independent companies were making individual efforts but if you consult pan-industry you can make much bigger and quicker changes.

So everyone eventually bought into the idea of a 10% reduction which was bolstered as we did research with retailers and consumer groups to head-off at the pass, any concerns.

Of course initially Eco-packaging is more expensive as at moment – it is the exception rather than the rule – but if we get all the industry in you greatly reduce cost and bring cardboard packaging to be the rule rather than the exception and bring the per unit costs down.

Jon Webster (CEO, Music Managers Forum): Well I’m on the board of Julie’s Bicycle as I’ve always been anti-waste.  I worked at Virgin for many years and we were the tightest company known to man.

As a business we don’t tend to do things together or for long term reasons, both of these have to change.  We’ve often been involved in wasteful competition, that must change. One of my big bugbears is CD promos, we must make it unacceptable to be sending out non-digital promos. When things become common to all, the price falls and it’s good for all.

The other thing that has come up in the past is people have said “We cant talk to each other about packaging as that would be anti-competitive”.  We must not say it is anti-competitive, we just don’t have time, we can’t afford to not do things because someone may think that they are anti-competitive.

Alison Tickell (Director, Julie’s Bicycle): Just in response to Catherine’s very compelling and scientific survey, one of the things about JB is that legislation is currently letting us down, it is slow and clunky and it actually doesn’t represent this quite awkward and fragmented industry that is full of small creative companies.

We can’t hang around so we have to start, and start from where we are.  I have found an incredible commitment from the industry, which as we have found today, is not always brilliant at working as one.

The whole idea behind JB was to do something that is not like Live Earth.  It was big gig, with a lot of artists travelling over the world, saying to audiences they need to cut their carbon when they quite palpably were not doing so themselves.

We are very over exposed and open to criticisms of hypocrisy.  We put a foot wrong and someone will find it and undermine any good intentions.

So the idea behind JB is to do it the other way around, it is all about sorting our own house out, we haven’t gone near artists, but if an artist wants to talk about climate change, they can do it knowing the industry that supports them is demonstrably being responsible.

We need to speed up change.  80% by 2050 doesn’t sound much but it will require massive change to everything we do.  The scale of the challenge is enormous, we need to start now.  We’re bigger than the sum of our parts, if the music industry works together we can be more efficient, not just in terms of carbon emissions but also in terms of cost.

Nick Ladd (Promoter & Co-Founder, Glade Festival): I run the Glade Festival, an electronic music festival for around 20,000 people.  Reason I came tonight was because of A Greener Festival.  We at Glade have won their awards the past couple of years.

I’ve Heard about JB code of practice – it needs to be enforceable.

There exists an interesting precedent – The Purple Guide – this handbook tells us how many toilets we need per person at events, Health & Safety, etc.  It’s not law but councils won’t get behind you unless you sign up to it.  It should be the same with the code of practice, then it would be more powerful.

I’d like to see flyers banned, but failing that I would like to see an insistence on using recycled paper.  We just got some flyers done for the Glade Festival and were quoted £5’000 for 150,000 flyers, the same flyers on recycled paper would have cost us £7’800.

Andrew Haworth (Enviromental Manager, Live Nation): This isn’t a competitive issue, it is something that we need to work together on.

CO2 emissions are small in the music industry but we can show the power of working together.  Throughout our venues and festivals we’ve saved money making energy savings.  We need to implement best practice now and save money later.  More we invest now the greater the saving.

Keith Harris (Chairman, MusicTank): We’re in danger of a love in here!  OK, mixing this up a bit, surely something like deforestation is a bigger issue?  Shouldn’t we (the music industry) spend more effort on using our clout to get the message out?

TW: What we’re doing doesn’t preclude that, but if we can get our own house in order first, that will let us ‘preach’ more effectively.

Consumers can be hypersensitive to ‘preaching’, as an industry we should lead by example.  Look at Radiohead, they do so much, we should follow their example and walk it like we talk it.

KH: Going back to the original question, can we afford to go green?

AT: There is no question that it’s a hard time, with no money around for investment.  We have worked with a lot of small companies that have spent a lot of money going green.  This will not be easy and it will require people to say, yes, we will spend money.  We’re a dynamic industry, legislation will not work for us, it is too slow.  We can sit and wait till we are hit by this or we can start to invest now.  Julie’s Bicycle is all about how we bring the costs of this change down.

KH: So what percentage of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the music industry?

CB: Less than 1%, it is a low carbon industry but it has a large profile and has a chance to be a climate change leader.  If the music industry can create low carbon products we can help people from all walks of life envision a low carbon lifestyle.

KH: So Andrew, Live Nation, you’re a big company, how much of a difference can you make?

AH: Internally, huge.  Since we started looking at this we’ve dropped some venues emissions by up to 25%.  OK, the music industry’s contribution is small, but if we stand still and do nothing then suddenly we could find ourselves accounting for 3%.  It is not easy, but if we work together as an open coalition, we can show each other what works.

Live Nation, we’re not whiter than white but we’re trying and we’re making progress.

KH: Nick, I’m interested did you pay the extra £2’500 for the recycled flyers?

NL: No, absolutely not.  We did an audit of what it would take and it was just too much.  We absolutely won’t compromise on compostable cutlery and water bottles.  Four million people got to festivals and they’re seen as cool places, and they open people’s eyes.  Festivals are a good opportunity to talk to the youth and show them that we’re making an effort.

One thing, the marketplace is a potent tool, but right now it is failing us.  Legislation has to be clearly looked at. People need to be told that they have to do something. We need the carrot and the stick here.

KH: Jon, would you support enforced rules?

JW: Well, people don’t get involved.  Nick, why were the flyers so much more?

NL: We need everyone to be told that they must use recycled paper for flyers – that way the price would drop.

JW: I think you need crusaders, people who will stand there and ask awkward questions, who will ask why do artists need to get limosines everywhere, that kind of thing.  We need people who will challenge people.

AH: Back to Nick Ladd’s point about collective action.  There are savings to be made with an economy of scale.

AT: There is inertia at the moment, we need a visionary government and we just don’t have it.  With the green standards we wanted to create something people want to have, there would be respect in having this standard attached to you.  All these things only work in scale though.  At the end of the day, climate change is much more important than copyright extensions.

KH: So, whilst I agree with climate change going to the top of the list, a lot of my airmiles have been spent going to Africa, teaching poor local musicians how not to get ripped off.

AH: It’s all interlinked, as much as it’s about one thing in Europe, it’s also about food and security in the developing world.

JW: There are consequences for everything.

CB: Air travel is outside our measurements, but it does need to be brought in so it can be properly measured and legislated for on a European or global level.

Stern, who produced the report looking at the economic effect of climate change, has said we must look at the supply chain.


KH: Should we spend more time getting the message out there?

(From the floor) Phil Sutcliffe from Mojo – the answer to that is no, just do it, everyone’s been mouthing off forever, we need to actually do something.

(From the floor) The industry can have a role in getting out the right message, and show how everything is inter-related.

AH: We all talk about waiting to get the science right, but maybe we should agree to have an openness to failure, then we’ll have a much better chance of hitting targets.

KH: Is the trial and error approach not responsible for mixed messages?

AT: Well we’ve had a problem with Biofuels, they were produced as a one size fits all solution, and of course they have caused problems.

CB: The biofuels debate has opened up a more sophisticated debate as to payoffs.

I’m doing a study into the environmental impact of T In The Park and musicians travel is responsible for twice as much emissions as audience travel.  How can you incentivise musicians and their management to be greener?

JW: Well Radiohead have made decisions on how they tour.  You just have to make these decisions on how to minimise the effect you have.  You’ve got to try and take trains for instance where you can.

KH: Artists taking trains is a bit of a hassle.  It’s nice for artists to have a break from people asking for autographs etc.

AT: There’s a danger of saying that it’s all the artists fault.  We need to avoid scapegoats.  Some artists will jump to get involved, but others won’t and we must blame them.

Where do you draw the line of responsibility?  Should we blame festival promoters for attracting foreign audiences, should we do more to encourage MP3 players to replace CDs?

AH: We have set environmental standards, if people are flying to Download (festival), then we will make sure that there are shuttle busses available.

NL: The responsibility lies with government.  I don’t have massive faith in UK people ever really being green.  I’ve never seen worse littering than in the UK.  This needs to lie with government, they must legislate to force people to be more responsible.

AT: It’s not asking a lot of government, but you have to remember government moves slowly.  Ultimately we need to be guided by climate change science.
Julie’s Bicycle is trying hard to find out exactly where we are now.

CB: I did a couple of years work on personal carbon allowances.  The public needs to be warmed up as to the solutions out there.  We need to learn to prioritise.

JW: It’s all about money.  We are living in a time when half the (music) industry is going down the toilet.  Given the choice, most people will take the cheap option, whether that’s cheap chickens, or free music.  We need to change that attitude.

TW: Pragmatic of Nick to want government to step in, we are dealing with market failure here.

KH: Could we start by banning covermount CDs?

TW: I would if I was God.  At EMI I tried to stop them, environmentally unfriendly and they devalued the music.

We’re trying to measure our carbon usage, but the problem we have is measuring the emissions of our suppliers, there’s lots of fudging.  We should lead by example and insist we mark every step in the industry’s carbon footprint.

AT: We’re not there yet, but then that’s the whole point of developing the green standards kite mark.  The issue you’ve raised there though, is the principle of disclosure.  People find disclosure very alarming, but we need to make carbon balances as important as financial balances.  But we must remove blame, the biggest issue is disclosure.  We’re now looking at every aspect of the production including the wood in set design.

Richard from Ninja Tune,  I’d like to know what’s the best thing an artist can do to help reduce their carbon emissions?

AH: Simply asking the question helps.  Ask suppliers, venues what they are doing?

NL: Any time they send out an email message, add a green message to the bottom.

AT: Put their concerns up on a website.

JW: Put it on the agenda.

TW: Ask for eco packaging and a green rider.

There’s a lot of talk but a lack of info. Confusion leads to inaction.  Nick, thanks for sharing the information about the flyers, but why go for flyers at all?  Could you have afforded to have no flyers?

NL: Yes, we avoid traditional flyers, we use ours as inserts in magazines.  Flyering outside clubs is just not effective.  I’d love to ban flyers for all but we’re in competition, so we have to do it, it’s part of the marketing mix.

Is it better to do a than b, x then y etc?  Is the answer more likely to be in some unseen new technology?

AH: Yes, smaller actions will make steps but if venues look the same in 20 years then we have failed.

CB: The technology to solve climate change is available but has not yet been brought to market. We need to put them in place.

I find that when dealing with freelance clients, the answer to the question (Can we afford to go green?) is “No”.  Are there any other tools aside from money that I can take to clients?

AT: There are two answers here, firstly money, don’t underestimate the power of efficiencies, don’t dismiss the saving that can actually be made.  We’re all going to have to do this anyway, do your homework.

Will you (Julie’s Bicycle) be at the (G20 climate clamp) demo on Wednesday?

AT: We have decided to take a non campaigning approach, certainly until there is more widespread education on the subject.  We will produce a statement for Copenhagen in December on behalf of the music industry and the creative industries.