- 28 Nov 19
What future for the live music industry in the alarming context of our current climate crisis? In an article written on behalf of Massive Attack, musician Robert Del Naja reckons there is a need to grasp the nettle by embracing 'seismic change'.
Published by the Guardian today, the article sheds light on a very current issue: the global carbon footprint and its severe impact on our planet - a matter which is unfortunately not made any better by musical acts constantly touring the world.
While it is unimaginable to put an end to such an essential cultural practice, turning a blind eye to environmental concerns and not holding the live music industry the least bit accountable appears rather irresponsible. It may seem to be a drop in the ocean but in the quest to limiting global warming, every little gesture counts which can help reduce the damage we cause.
A lot of emphasis has been put on plastic consumption lately. The use of straws made of cardboard during concerts is a great improvement but this alone will not repair nor reduce the ever-growing hole in the ozone layer above our heads.
Today, Massive Attack have spoken up to defend a dire need for global change that nobody truly wants but which is undeniably needed. While in the grand scheme of things this may seem alarmist, studies keep emerging which confirm the urgency of the situation.
Del Naja told the Gardian: "As a band that has toured globally for several years, we’ve had cause to reflect on this. Concerns over our own carbon impact and those of our wider industry aren’t new to us, but the urgency is."
"We’ve taken unilateral steps for nearly two decades – like many bands, we’ve paid to have trees planted, prohibited the use of single-use plastics and travelled by train wherever feasible."
Despite those efforts, the band could not omit the evidence showing that factors such as audience transportation and venue power account for as much as 93% of all the CO2 emissions generated by major music events.
Yet again, a world with no touring live acts makes for an extremely grim perspective. Our attention already appears to be overly directed at screens - having to watch concerts mostly digitally would be a downright depressing scenario. And individuals having to regularly travel the world just to watch acts perform local residencies would be completely counter-productive.
Music and live performances represent an invaluable source of joy which brings people together. There cannot be an end to it. However, it is important to recognize that those are contributing to the severe harm our planet endures daily.
Del Naja has a good point: "Given the current polarised social atmosphere, uplifting and unifying cultural events are arguably more important now than ever, and no one would want to see them postponed or even cancelled. The challenge therefore is to avoid more pledges, promises and greenwashing headlines and instead embrace seismic change."
"Any unilateral actions we take now would prove futile unless our industry moves together, and to create systemic change there is no real alternative to collective action."
For all the arising issues about our environment, only a massive shift in practices and mentalities will help. To reduce the global carbon footprint caused by the live music industry, Massive Attack are calling for its main actors to find a practical consensus about the issue.
"Today we’re announcing the commissioning of the renowned Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research to map the full carbon footprint of typical tour cycles, and to look specifically at the three key areas where CO2 emissions in our sector are generated: band travel and production, audience transport and venue. The resulting roadmap to decarbonisation will be shared with other touring acts, promoters and festival/venue owners to assist swift and significant emissions reductions."
While the CO2 emissions generated by touring acts can never be entirely suppressed without entirely suppressing a fundamental part of our culture, there should be ways to reduce their global damage for a brighter future.