There are a number of initiatives across the global music industry exploring, and in many cases, pioneering, solutions to the global crisis we face. We have recognised the need to be good neighbours, stewards and land managers because our businesses do not exist in a vacuum.
We are impacted by, and often subservient to, state and local regulation, an electrical grid, sanitation, paved roads and stable governments to succeed and profit. Without systems to build live music or festival infrastructure on, festivals don’t exist. Without careful land planning and environmental management, music venues do not get built. Our system grinds to a halt.
Recognising this, a number of initiatives are addressing this and positioning our sector within the global sustainable movement. The Music Declares campaign, led by Julie’s Bicycle, is one. The Clean Scene initiative in the electronic music sector is another. Around the world, festivals are becoming increasingly gender equal and promoting fair pay and fair play. Hundreds have joined the Keychange scheme. The multinationals, Live Nation and AEG, both have published sustainability targets across climate action, gender equality and overall sustainability.
But we are also lacking. In the music industry we rarely link our initiatives, our successes and our challenges with the outside world or other sectors. There is no adherence to the global language of sustainability– the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and how we can utilise what we do to support collective sustainability while learning from our neighbours. While we are reliant on urban and rural ecosystems to produce, promote, market and succeed, there is a lack of collaboration across global intergovernmental organisations to utilise music as a tool for sustainability.
In the music industry we rarely link our initiatives, our successes and our challenges with the outside world or other sectors
We believe our business has the potential to be a global leader in sustainable development – an important distinction to the simple concept of sustainability, because it refers to the urgent need to literally rebuild the world’s systems, infrastructure and common practices of day-to-day existence for the long-term sustainable future on planet Earth.
But we need to engage more with the processes and practices that itemise, strategise and audit sustainability around the world. While it is necessary (even mandatory) to deliver no-impact events, operationally, it is equally important to play an influencing role in changing attendee behaviour and demanding more from suppliers and corporate partners. What are the long-term positive impacts that festivals can claim in between event cycles?
When we understand this, we start to unlock the vital role music can play in long-term development as a strategic partner to the municipalities and regions where we operate.
This is why we are advocating for the music industry – particularly the live music sector – to align itself with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals by creating an SDG Music Compact – or an agreement that binds our business – linking our targets and initiatives with the rest of the world.
It is time to merge music with the universal language of sustainability
SDGs represent the first truly global language for sustainability that transcends culture, language and geography, opening up vast opportunities for data collection, categorisation, tracking and reporting. It also provides clear pathways to new issues-based partnerships, supply chain and decision-making that perhaps were previously hidden or difficult to navigate.
Most countries (and cities) around the world have SDG offices – with dedicated budgets – that focus on the most urgent social and environmental issues their specific region is facing. Both the media and fashion sectors have signed their own compacts.
But we lack this collective mind-set, this voice. We are reducing carbon, increasing gender parity and promoting fair pay in our sector, but each action is independent of each other. If we tied them together and created an SDG structure for music, the awareness and impact of our practices, such as Music Demands, will have a far greater reach than our sector alone. We have the opportunity to magnify our voice and impact effectiveness.
We organised an SDG Summit at Reeperbahn Festival on 20 September, as part of the Creative Solutions Summit. This was the first step to seeing SDGs embedded more in music to provide guidance, support and greater global awareness of what we do and why it matters. Because music is more than our industry. Music is our universal language. It is time to merge music with the universal language of sustainability.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.