Supporting climate action is no longer about altruism, it's a business imperative if we want to continue to see a stable and profitable music industry.

11 August 2023

It’s been a landmark year for outdoor in the UK. The sheer number of festivals and live shows is staggering. One recent statistic that caught my eye was that over 1 million people were at a live concert in London over the first weekend of July. The reach of live music has never been greater.

Money and soft power coalesce around such events and politicians understand the financial and cultural impact of the UK’s leading role in music as I found out when I attended the UK Music Summer Party alongside over 80 of them a few weeks ago.

Don’t get the wrong idea, there is no negative here, I am glad that music and the music industry is recognised as structurally important to both the UK economy and its cultural standing. In an age of content, cultural exports are as important as manufacturing.

That unique power has always been central to Music Declares’ thinking. When we say we believe in the power of music to change the world, it isn’t a naïve belief in the transformative power of a chorus, it’s a recognition of the literal muscle of the UK music industry. This side of music is just as important as the cultural side in contributing solutions to the climate emergency.

Yet, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, deploying that power requires the industry to speak up. We realise the delicate balance that many businesses, large and small, face in doing so but the reality is that advocating for climate action is now not just a matter of altruism but a necessity for business survival.

Take outdoor. This year has seen a slew of cancellations due to extreme weather here in the UK, which has avoided the worst climate weather effects of 2023 thus far. Events in mainland Europe and North America share that experience. Where weather hasn’t resulted in outright cancellation, there have been restrictions and day cancellations as with Bluedot or Wacken’s decision last weekend to cap attendance due to site conditions.

Compounding the immediate cost of refunds to tickets holders and the loss of faith in events affecting sales for further years, the increasing power of climate change weather systems to disrupt and destroy events is already leading to increased insurance premiums. This will, inevitably, end with events unable to secure cover, whether through cost or, as we saw with Covid, exclusions that deny payout on climate and weather-related claims.

Given that our current trajectory guarantees future, more extreme, weather conditions, the impact on outdoor events is guaranteed to get worse year on year.

And this is not just an issue for outdoor events. The entirety of live will face increasing challenges as weather affects transport logistics for both artists and fans, disrupting touring schedules and removing audience members, (and their per head spend), at short notice. And that’s before you consider how many UK venues are at increased risk of flooding and property damage as weather events grow ever more extreme. The O2 roof may have been the first to be taken off, it is unlikely to be the last.

What affects live affects us all, from the basics of ticket income, merch sales, and PRS payments to the wider promotional power of performance that drives streaming and physical sales. The interconnectedness of the business of music needs to recognise the very real threats posed by the climate emergency to our wellbeing.

Thankfully, the structures already exist for the industry to prioritise engagement with the climate emergency in a holistic manner.

This means using the ongoing work being done with a host of organisations including Julie’s Bicycle, A Greener Future, Vision 2025, Live Green, Ecolibrium, The Music Climate Pact, and the Aim Climate Action Group and bringing that work into the public and political arena. We need to be unafraid to make the case for this work.

It means going beyond the individual business footprint and advocating and campaigning for the necessary changes outside our immediate control to sustain the profitability of a UK Music industry that is at the heart of a zero-carbon future: better public transport for nighttime economies, investment strategies and tax incentives for greening touring, new green product development research and development, and green infrastructure investment and incentives for our live spaces.

Such a strategy offers cross sector partnerships that use our incredible power of connection with the public to promote and prioritise the existing solutions to the climate emergency, working with climate friendly politicians across the political spectrum to build understanding and support for meaningful action.

And it means finding and funding the structures and support for those artists that we talk to regularly who want to speak out and use their platform but feel isolated and under resourced at the current time.

Music is already playing a role in the climate conversation but the need for more is evident. This is not about charity, its about business. A zero-carbon music industry needs a zero-carbon system to really succeed. The good news is that it already possesses many of the levers to play a major role in making that a reality.