Don’t shoot the messenger – how artists need support when they speak out on climate

8th September

This week seems to have a theme. On a couple of conversations, I’ve been confronted with a familiar trope that never fails to piss me off.

It centres around the idea that any artist that says anything about the climate crisis is immediately subject to an audit of their entire business which, if found to be anything less than completely climate impact proof leads to them being accused of hypocrisy or, that favourite phrase, “greenwashing”.

So, here’s a call to all of us who want to see artists use their position to offer support to artists and a quick run through of the favourite accusations we see regularly in our work.

You’re not perfect.

Artists are not the arbiters of their entire business. It stands to reason that, given the artist is already composing and recording music, playing it live, doing media rounds, and trying to also have some form of a life, they are unlikely to be intimately involved in the routing of their tour, the packaging on their products, or the multitude of other commercial realisations of their art. It’s fair to say a lot of artists spend extra time and care on the areas that concern them and we should celebrate this. We cannot, and should not, require them to be omnipotent.

Why don’t you fix this / that / that other?

Artists exist in the system, they are not all powerful. Globally successful artists may feel like they have the power to change reality but they don’t. Critics banging away at them because they haven’t delivered a mass transit system to reduce audience emissions is rather missing the point. That’s not their job. We need to support what they are doing and suggest the next step is for the audience to get involved in lobbying those who have the power to make the changes that are outside their control. .

Artists have a right to pursue their career

Hello troll. Do you drive to work? If public transport is poor where you are its likely you do. You are also in the system. But no one would suggest you should quit your job and find one that you can walk to instead. But it seems perfectly acceptable to suggest that artists should stop touring or limit their touring or play smaller venues instead and offer more shows or all manner of half-baked suggestions that ignore reality and see the artist as a mere tool for the ends of those with no realistic understanding of touring finance or audience demand. We can, and should, look for the best options in any scenario but we need to support those artists who put themselves out there and try new things that don’t work, and accept that not everything can be fixed overnight.

If you need to fly there, you shouldn’t be touring

If the artist doesn’t go to the audience, what do you think will happen? Yep, the audience will come to the artist. We already see this with international bands that play one UK show in London. Check the audience at this year’s Black Pink Hyde Park headline or this week’s Twice shows at the O2. If you’re paying £200 per ticket, a train or plane ticket is hardly likely to be a barrier. This applies internationally as well in an age of cheap air travel (another system issue that isn’t up the artist to solve). So before we accept its ok to say that artists should only tour where they can use ground transport consider even the largest touring crew of 100 for a mega stadium artist vs the thousands of audience members jumping on flights to come to them.

The value of artists using their platform is far greater than the compromises of current touring

This is not a charter for artists to jump on Lear jets. Touring and recording artists should do the best in all circumstances but the reality is that many already do and, especially in the UK, music industry direction of travel is overwhelmingly positive. But, while climate awareness is high, yet still not sparking urgent action, the power of key global artists to inspire is, to my mind, one of our best assets.

So, the next time you see some shout greenwash or join a discussion to point out that touring has emissions, pause a moment and think what they are really bringing to the conversation, because it sure as hell isn’t the thing we all want; meaningful action.

#hypocrisy #greentouring #climateadvocacy #speakout #livemusic #musicindustry #greenwashing