Musicians look to clean up their acts

Industry gathers to discuss how to make lavish rock'n'roll tours more environmentally friendly

Paul Bignell
Sunday 14 March 2010 01:00

Imagine U2 clambering on to a train to take them to a sold-out stadium; Keith Richards swigging from a bottle of organic, Fairtrade booze while Bon Jovi recycle their post-gig waste. Unlikely as it sounds, it may yet come to pass as rock'n'roll's tradition of painting the town red fades to an ethical shade of green.

Polluting private jets, excessive dressing room demands and arena-busting tours are no long sustainable, according to the biggest study so far on the effect of the live music industry on our environment.

In recent years, musicians such as U2, Kasabian and Madonna have been criticised for the size of their carbon footprint due to the huge scale of their tours. Notwithstanding Sting's personal enviro-activism, his group, the Police, was recently condemned as "the dirtiest band in the world" in an NME survey, because of the size and length of their 2007 reunion tour.

The report, which will be published in May, is the first to map the carbon footprint of live music – from platinum-selling rock stars and orchestras to theatre groups and pub bands. Although it doesn't name and shame, it does blame performers for releasing about 540,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases every year – the amount emitted by a town the size of Great Yarmouth in Suffolk.

Music agents, promoters and managers met in London yesterday to discuss how the industry can clean up its act but still make money.

The study was produced by Julie's Bicycle, a not-for-profit company which was set up specifically to research the music industry's carbon footprint. It maps everything from the number and size of tours, right down to the greenness of the band's rider or list of dressing room demands.

The study's suggestions range from fans car-sharing to get to gigs to bands leaving their Lear jets in the hangar and letting the train take the strain. It is also recommends that band T-shirts be ethically produced.

The organisation looked at 90 artists' tours around the UK, Europe, US and Asia. It then interviewed dozens of people working on them.

Some bands have led the way in revealing the environmental impact of their tours. Radiohead have produced an audit of two of their tours in the US and made it publicly available. Other green champions include Sheryl Crow, John Legend and Coldplay.

Jazz Summers, the chief executive of Big Life Management and a founder of Julie's Bicycle, said at yesterday's event: "There is a lot of fear around the music industry getting greener. There's a real fear that it's going to cost the industry money. But that's why we're doing this report – like anything else, it's about information."

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