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How music impacts city planning Part 2: Climate

In the second part of his series on music cities, Center for Music Ecosystems director Shain Shapiro explores climate change

21 Jan 2022

How music impacts city planning Part 2: Our Climate

In the second part of his series on music cities, Center for Music Ecosystems director Shain Shapiro explores climate change. Read Part 1 here. Earlier this week, Shapiro announced he was stepping aside as Sound Diplomacy CEO to become chair of the organisation.

Decisions are made every day that impact how we live in and interact with others in our communities. When changes negatively impact us, we notice. Otherwise, life happens in the background. Our cities are changing every day and with it, their impact on live music and our music ecosystem. For example, when residential developments – sorely needed in every city in the world – are proposed next to existing music venues, we take notice. However, there’s nothing to say people can’t live next to venues. The problem is not the building itself, but how it is planned, constructed and managed.

Every day, our climate is changing and with it, how it challenges our music ecosystems in cities and places. If cities are under water, there would be no venues, studios or rehearsal spaces, let alone homes or livelihoods. Music is one component in what makes cities and places great, but I believe music has a disproportionate opportunity to help fight the climate crisis. Take a festival, for example. It is, in effect, a mini settlement that gets constructed and torn down in a short period of time. From the provision of utilities to managing sewage, security to transport, how festivals function can offer solutions to making settlements in general, be it a new town or a displaced person’s camp, more sustainable. Our cities are no different and I believe 2022 will be a year in which the music ecosystem – and those leading it – demonstrate how music can be a leader in combating the climate emergency. Here are a few ways this could happen.

“Small changes driven by cities, to benefit all spaces and places, could create lasting change”

Venues Becoming Climate Action Community Centres

One way we all invest in music is through the buildings that dot our cities and places that showcase it. There are concert halls, opera houses and venues all over the world that receive public funding, and long may that continue. Given this extensive relationship, I believe there’s an opportunity in 2022 to think of each of these venues – no matter where they are – as climate action community centres, as much as venues to showcase live music and art. As a place dedicated to congregating for entertainment and recreation, our venues could also be places to showcase the best solutions to the climate crisis.

This could include grassroots music venues, libraries, churches – anywhere that welcomes music. First, incentives could be explored to further support necessary repairs and refitting in those venues that need it and with additional support could come carbon asset monitoring frameworks, much like cities do with other emissions, to calculate all impact for all venues and provide support, training and services to reduce them. Yes, there is a lot to unpack here, but small changes driven by cities, to benefit all spaces and places, could create lasting change. And I believe venues, festivals and production facilities – places we all have emotional attachment to – can be powerful agents of change.

This is already happening. In Huntsville, Alabama, the new Orion Amphitheater managed by the Venue Group and funded by the City of Huntsville is run on renewable energy, growing as much of its own food as possible, eliminating single use plastics and creating a zero-waste back of house. The Climate Pledge Arena, led by Oak View Group, goes a step further, demonstrating the potential shareholder value that comes from this approach.

The solutions exist, including those from the leaders like Julie’s Bicycle, Music Declares Emergency, A Greener Festival, LIVEGREEN and the Race To Zero Network, but linking the music ecosystem to city and place based commitments has yet to be actualised en masse. I believe 2022 will be the year that live music returns in full force and with it, an opportunity to demonstrate how music, in all its forms and functions, can help lead in combating the climate emergency. Doing so will strengthen venue networks and, I believe, the relationships venues have with the wider community.

“Investing in music can make cities and places livelier, friendlier, cleaner and more equitable. But it requires a change in mindset”

The Climate Crisis Makes Local Music That Much More Important

There have been a number of advancements in touring infrastructure to reduce emissions, such as those led by Reverb, or the aforementioned Association of Greener Festivals. Similar initiatives exist in electronic music or with orchestras. But no matter how we look at it the more we travel, especially in large groups, the more emissions we generate. There are further improvements that could be introduced, such as tax credits to purchase electric vans for artists and charging points outside venues, but there is a reality I believe we will begin to face in 2022; the future of touring is changing and one result of the climate crisis may be less touring. This will continue to open up opportunities for livestreaming and experiencing music in the metaverse, but I believe if we think about this differently, this demonstrates an opportunity that every city, town and place could capitalise on more, starting in 2022. This is the power, influence and importance of local music and the investment opportunities to provide the infrastructure for it to prosper.

We are all local somewhere and the pandemic demonstrated how important our neighbourhoods are. As a result, many cities are exploring a 15 Minute City concept. If we incorporate music into this concept (as I did here), the opportunity for scene building and local talent development in our cities and towns has never been greater. If there was a greater incentive to develop sustainable local infrastructure, from how public spaces are built to manage sound levels to allow for respectful live music to regulated street performance pitches and contactless tipping, to investing more widely in local artists, venues and concerts, travelling less opens up this opportunity.

2022 could be the year where local scene development becomes a priority not just for talent development, but to reduce carbon emissions. We still see investing in music as something solely for the benefit of musicians and the business. This is not the case. Investing in music can make cities and places livelier, friendlier, cleaner and more equitable. But it requires a change in mindset; a grassroots music venue is also community centres, for example, or an after-school music programme is about much more than keeping kids busy.

This is how we think about other services that have been expanded to combat the climate crisis, such as expanding public transportation, cycle lanes or promoting local, seasonal eating wherever possible. Expanding local music ecosystems not only deliver jobs and wealth, they can also – if invested in properly – be a tool to remake cities and places and better fight the climate crisis.

There is much more to discuss in this area, but if we don’t rethink what we are doing and why we are doing it, we will reduce the opportunities 2022 is bringing all of us to improve, enrich and better support music everyone.

In the final post of the series next week, I’m going to explore the role that the metaverse, minting NFTs and web3.0 can have on music ecosystems in 2022.


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