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The O2 launches ‘industry-leading’ Green Rider

The O2 in London has launched its very own Green Rider, an ‘industry-leading’ document outlining sustainable choices for incoming tours and productions.

The Green Rider includes best practice recommendations for how to reduce CO2 emissions, make more sustainable choices for equipment and materials used, reduce waste and energy consumption, and monitor an event’s carbon footprint, alongside an appendix containing useful resources and local suppliers.

The Rider will be shared with promoters and artist teams visiting the 21,000-capacity venue from now onwards.

“As a world-famous venue and industry-leaders in live entertainment, we have a responsibility to help drive forward the sustainability agenda for international touring and live events, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do with The O2’s Green Rider,” says Sam Booth, director of sustainability at AEG Europe.

“Working closely with organisations like A Greener Future, we’ve identified key areas where the environmental impact of a tour can be significantly reduced, and this document has been designed to directly address this. Our ambition is to create a blueprint for shows visiting the arena moving forwards, and for the wider live industry, whilst also working collaboratively with artists and touring crews to make events at The O2 more sustainable, but still a great experience for the bands and the fans.”

“Our ambition is to create a blueprint for shows visiting the arena moving forwards, and for the wider live industry”

The creation of a Green Rider follows the announcement that The O2 will be hosting ‘carbon removed’ events as part of a worldwide arena first, in collaboration with carbon removal experts CUR8 and sustainable event specialists A Greener Future.

The pilot events, taking place at The 1975’s headline shows at the venue in February 2024, will use a portfolio of carbon removal methods to physically extract the carbon generated by the events from the atmosphere and durably store it out of harm’s way, according to the AEG-operated arena.

Adam Pearson, commercial director at The O2, adds: “The O2 arena hosts over 200 events a year with some of the biggest acts in the world, so we have a massive opportunity here to really drive the sustainability agenda forward in our industry. Sustainability forms a core part of the venue’s business strategy as we strive to reduce our overall environmental impact and ultimately achieve net zero, but we need to be aligned with the artists, promoters and touring crews that come through the door to produce truly impactful change.

“We’re really excited about the launch of our Green Rider and have received a really positive response from the industry so far, but the document will be ever-evolving, so we welcome any suggestions for how to improve this further from the industry.”

The O2 was the first arena in England to achieve its Greener Arena certification from A Greener Future in December 2022, thanks to the venue’s sustainability practices and commitments.


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German body installs new sustainability officers

German trade association the BDKV has appointed two new sustainability officers to replace the outgoing Mike Keller.

Sarah Lüngen and Katrin Wipper from The Changency – a consultancy for sustainable change in the music industry – will succeed Markthalle Hamburg convention centre MD Keller, who took on the newly-created role at the start of 2023.

BDKV installed a new board, spearheaded by new president Sonia Simmenauer, at the start of the year and identified sustainability as one of the core topics of its work.

“We always understand sustainability in its entire complex spectrum: ecological, social and cultural sustainability are closely interlinked,” says Simmenauer. “Our measures in the spirit of sustainability therefore concern environmental protection, personnel or audience issues, equality and the contribution of culture as a whole to sustainable development.”

“Anyone who does not develop further in terms of sustainability today will soon have a difficult time,” adds BDKV MD Johannes Everke. “Let us look up, for example the EU Green Deal. In the short term, we therefore provide our members with up-to-date information and further training options. In the medium term, we are aiming for a practical sustainability certificate for the concert and event industry.

“The fields of action are numerous and diverse. We would therefore like to thank Mike for the very good work up to this point and look forward to continuing it with our new sustainability partners, the knowledgeable and committed experts from The Changency.”

“Together we can learn from and with each other to become more systemically sustainable and fair as an industry”

The Changency was founded by Lüngen and Wipper back in 2021 and has already created a portfolio of visionary projects – many of them with BDKV members. The Changency creates practical concepts for more sustainability at concerts and festivals, offers individual advice, supports communication campaigns and conducts studies.

“Our vision is to be part of the best party in the city: a party that manages to combine the passion and radiance of culture with a better, fairer way of life for everyone,” says a statement from the duo. “Sustainability that is fun, offers opportunities and shows solutions through creative ideas.

“We stand for motivation instead of resignation and are therefore very happy about the opportunity to shape the present and future of the concert and event industry together with the BDKV and its members. Together we can learn from and with each other to become more systemically sustainable and fair as an industry.”

Everke went on to praise Keller for setting the BDKV off on the right track.

“In eight months, Mike has set the course to make the topic of sustainability more transparent and better known within the association and across the industry and the public,” he says. “This starts with his always open ear and advice for our members and continues with the establishment of regular sustainability online sessions. In addition, his presence for the BDKV at industry-relevant sustainability conferences such as the SECON or Green Culture Conference and of great value for our members.”

Keller adds: “I am very grateful for this opportunity to advance the topic of sustainability with the BDKV. Katrin and Sarah’s continuation is the right decision for the BDKV. My path now continues in this direction. I wish Johannes, the entire BDKV and The Changency team much success in their upcoming tasks. The BDKV will certainly attract a lot of attention in this area.”


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Global Arena Guide 2023: USA

The United States is rife with arena sizes and configurations, with consumer-focused convertible spaces being used for everything from live music and entertainment events to collegiate and professional sports. From coast to coast — with a chunk of viable land and markets in between — the US contains the vast majority of arenas worldwide, including freshly established, historically iconic, and athletically tied venues.

“The health of the arena businesses is really good,” says John Boyle, global chief content officer for multinational venue company ASM Global. “Aside from the frontline concert business, there’s a lot of family content, motorsports, and more.”

In addition, having flexibility of configuration is key for arenas – being able to change capacity from 20,000 to 6,000, for example. “Curtaining off the upper half of the arena means you can put an act in there, and the show still feels good. So all these things together is what’s making the arena business really healthy. There’s a lot of content, and there’s a lot of thoughtfulness in how the supply chain is presenting the content.”

The US has seen a huge growth in Latin acts, as well as a regional Mexican movement – and he notes this trend has expanded out of the US to the rest of the world. Genres such as K-pop and J-pop are also seeing huge global success. Meanwhile, staffing “continues to be a challenge across the board,” and economic headwinds mean consumer behaviour and buying habits are changing, with tickets selling later.

Nonetheless, there’s a huge variety of new content coming through, especially in the family entertainment segment and in immersive exhibitions, which are showing “huge growth.”

“The K-pop shows are hugely successful. The second they go on presale, they sell out immediately.”

The West
On the west coast, California features a range of old and new, including LA’s AEG-owned Arena (20,000-capacity), currently undergoing property-wide upgrades set to be completed in autumn 2024, and Inglewood’s iconic Kia Forum (17,500). The Forum, which can seat as few as 2,500, has hosted ground-breaking residencies, with 15 sold-out nights for Harry Styles and 12 shows for Maná. Multiple show runs are planned for the upcoming year, with Rauw Alejandro, Dead & Company, Drake, and Depeche Mode set to play many nights at the venue.

“As we transition out of the pandemic era, we see that fans are more excited to attend live events than ever before, so it’s our priority to keep the shows coming,” says Becky Colwell, Kia Forum’s general manager.

The Intuit Dome (18,000), the Forum’s new neighbour in Inglewood, is expected to open in autumn 2024 and is set to become the new home of the Los Angeles Clippers, along with hosting live events.

Oak View Group (OVG) recently broke into the arid Coachella Valley region, launching a nearly $300m arena in Palm Springs. Opening in December 2022, the Live Nation-operated Acrisure Arena (11,000) has hosted Maroon 5, Journey, and The Doobie Brothers in its first year, with Paramore and Bryan Adams shows on the horizon.

In the Bay Area, the LEED Silver-certified Oakland Arena, which can be customised anywhere from 1,500-19,500 capacity, has shifted focus from being the home of the Golden State Warriors basketball team to being ‘K-pop central.’ They’re set to host Suga, Twice, and MAMAMOO soon.

“The K-pop shows are hugely successful. The second they go on presale, they sell out immediately. And we continue to prove how amazing it is to have a show here by selling out shows and hosting an amazing experience for fans,” says general manager Nicole Strange.

“I’m not sure in the 33 years I’ve been in the industry, I’ve seen it stronger”

With over 500,000 guests welcomed in 2022 and a 12% increase in ticket sales from 2019, Strange says the venue is focusing on new opportunities and revenue arms that weren’t previously possible with a sports residency.

Further up the west coast, Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena has transformed after OVG’s $1.2bn investment wholly renovated the 1960s venue. Reopened in October 2021, the 17,000-capacity arena is set to become the world’s first venue with net-zero carbon emissions as certified by the International Living Future Institute – all while welcoming 2.5m attendees in the 19 months since reopening.

Amazon acquired naming rights to the former KeyArena in 2020, vowing to make all operations carbon-neutral as part of its Climate Pledge pact in partnership with the Global Optimism advocacy group. With these ambitions, the venue is operating at a higher cost in order to “be at the forefront of these efforts to raise the bar in sustainability throughout the sports and entertainment industry,” says general manager Steve Mattson.

The OVG-operated space has eliminated fossil fuels, installed onsite renewable energy sources, and retained the arena’s historic roof from the ’60s. Mattson says they’ll continue to track external natural gas emissions — such as those from artists and fans travelling to the venue — recycle rainwater in soaked Seattle, source 75% of food from a 300-mile radius, and work towards banning all single-use plastics by the end of 2024.

Artists including Stevie Nicks, Phish, Muse, and NCT Dream have graced the Climate Pledge stage in recent months, and while the venue hosts primarily sports-related events, the future for live music in the US market looks brighter than ever.

“I’m not sure in the 33 years I’ve been in the industry, I’ve seen it stronger,” says Mattson. “I think part of it is the pandemic pause that prevented artists from touring, and now they’re all out working.”

“Last year was the most successful year that the building has ever had”

With more content comes the desire for new venues, and Madison Square Garden Entertainment is focussed on the Las Vegas market, with the eye-popping MSG Sphere at The Venetian. The dome-shaped auditorium with a projected 17,500-capacity is set to open with a U2 residency in September 2023. It will boast the world’s largest and first 16K LED screen — which wraps up, around, and behind audience members — while immersing them in 4D and pitch-perfect sound technology.

The new venue will bring increased competition to an already busy market in the western portion of the US. The ASM Global-operated Desert Diamond Arena (18,000) in Arizona is familiar with the competition, with Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Coachella being short distances away – though pivoting away from being a sports tenant-held building has led to more opportunities in the live music space.

“If you don’t have that tenant, it’s one less player in the middle. Without them, in this case, it’s a really good thing. And it supports the whole growth of this area right here,” says Dale Adams, general manager of the Glendale arena.

“Last year was the most successful year that the building has ever had. This year, we’ve already confirmed more events than we had last year, so we’re just getting better.” Along with a boom in ticket sales as people return to live performances, Adams says the Latin genre has taken both his venue and the US market by storm, becoming one of the hottest genres in the market today.

The South & Midwest
The Latin fever gripping the US is primarily led by the culturally proximal southern states. In Texas, the newly opened Moody Center (15,000) in Austin is set to host Billy Strings, Ricardo Arjona, Chris Stapleton, and Luis Miguel in the upcoming year, which is only its second in operation.

“We’re seeing really strong indicators that international business will continue to grow here, particularly with Latin and regional Mexican acts,” says Michael Owens, Moody Center’s VP of programming. “Not only is the overall show count increasing, but we’re beginning to cycle into second plays with many of these artists. There is a massive underserved audience in this region, with zip reports showing both regional ticket purchases and cross-border traffic into Austin for these shows.”

“When we think about sustainability, we like to call it our ‘forever journey’ because it’s continuous”

Opening in April 2022, the Moody Center has surpassed expectations to become the world’s highest-grossing venue of its size, according to Billboard. Backed by OVG, Live Nation, and C3 Presents, nearly 50% of its more than 140 events have sold out, with 1.5m fans entering during the inaugural year of business — and Owens says they’re “just getting started.”

“Over the past few decades, many nationally touring acts have skipped the Austin market, opting for pro-sports buildings in major markets like Dallas and Houston,” says Owens. “With the recent addition of this world-class arena in the heart of the city, we’re realising a lot of pent-up demand from those fans who no longer have to travel outside the market to see their favourite artists. Factor in the strong local economy in Austin and the record number of people moving to the region every day, and you have the recipe for an explosive inaugural year.”

Local economies, cultures, and markets are important considerations for venues in the US. In Atlanta, which lies in the south-eastern region, the State Farm Arena (17,000) is striving to be the leading arena in its area, according to general manager and EVP Brett Stefansson.

“Atlanta is a melting pot of different cultures; you can book any genre in our building, and it’s going to be successful,” he says. “Covid caused so much isolation and took away the human-to-human interaction that people crave. We now see fans prioritising and appreciating live entertainment more than ever before.”

Home to the Atlanta Hawks NBA team, which operates the arena, the southern arena hosts both live entertainment and sports and is balancing its recent successes with reshaping the venue for the future. In 2022, it became the world’s first venue to earn Platinum TRUE Zero Waste certification, and it was a founding and equity member in the launch of the OVG-partnered Green Operations & Advanced Leadership (GOAL) platform.

“When we think about sustainability, we like to call it our ‘forever journey’ because it’s continuous. We feel it’s our duty to the community as stewards of a world-class arena and an NBA franchise to do the right thing and to set an example,” says Stefansson.

“In terms of technical labour, a stagehand, for example, there are simply fewer of them around”

Up the eastern coast sits one of the US’s largest arenas by capacity, the Greensboro Coliseum. Configurable between 13,000 to 22,000, the North Carolina arena has hosted The Eagles, Los Temerarios, and New Edition recently.

“The past 12 months were exceptional, and we reached, if not surpassed, how busy we were before the pandemic started,” says deputy director Scott E. Johnson. “Going into the next 12 to 18 months, we are forecasting much of the same. More shows, high sales at high prices.”

Yet Johnson adds the space has struggled to retain part-time and skilled technical labourers, even with significant pay increases. As the American labour force reels from pandemic disruption, the hospitality and leisure sector has the highest quit rate of the US industries, up to 5.6% in February 2023, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“Our industry is predominantly supported by part-time workers, who were drastically affected by the pandemic,” says Johnson. “Our industry carries part-time workers as ‘second jobs’ for ancillary income, not a primary job. People are slow to return to secondary employment.”

“In terms of technical labour, a stagehand, for example, there are simply fewer of them around. We have lost quite a few who changed careers during the pandemic. Travelling stagehands took local jobs to survive, and they are only returning to the road if [they receive] significant pay increases,” adds Johnson.

In addition to challenges with labour, inflation in the US market is also a pressing issue for venues and attendees alike. The Consumer Price Index, which measures the average cost of goods and services, peaked in June 2022 at 9.1%, up from 2.3% in December 2019, and has trended downwards to 5% in March 2023.

“Slowdowns in the overall economy related to inflation and a reduction in individuals’ discretionary income could affect our industry as a whole”

Inflation remains an ongoing issue for venues like the university-owned Colonial Life Arena (18,000) in South Carolina, where general manager Sid Kenyon says, “slowdowns in the overall economy related to inflation and a reduction in individuals’ discretionary income could affect our industry as a whole.”

Nonetheless, Kenyon reports that this year is projected to match the full fiscal year before the pandemic. The venue is unique in its ties to collegiate affairs but still competes in the broader market against neighbouring venues.

“There are no differences for a collegiate arena than that of any arena that has a primary tenant, such as a professional sports team who receives priority scheduling,” says Kenyon. “I would also say we may also have some advantages with a large infrastructure already in place supporting the entire university, in areas such as legal services, procurement, law enforcement, and security, among others. Another advantage is having thousands of college students in our market.”

Over in the midwestern market, Ohio’s Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse (19,432) also keeps its significant potential audience in mind when booking shows, with EVP of venue operations Antony Bonavita saying, “we’re not just flyover country.” The Cleveland venue has recently seen an explosion in Latin, K-pop, J-pop, and C-pop performances and is set to host Pink, Madonna, Greta Van Fleet, and Peter Gabriel later this year.

Across the Midwest, other notable venues include Tulsa’s BOK Center (19,200), Kansas City’s T-Mobile Center (19,250), St. Louis’s Enterprise Center (22,000), Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena (21,000), and Chicago’s United Center (23,500).

The Northeast
The northeast sector of the US is home to renowned venues including New York City’s Madison Square Garden (18,600), Radio City Music Hall (6,000), and Barclays Arena (19,000). NYC lands in between Boston’s TD Garden (19,500) to the north and Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center (21,000) to the south.

“Within this competitive marketplace, it is extremely important that everyone who sets foot inside UBS Arena has a fun, easy, and memorable experience”

Between Philadelphia and the US capital, Washington, D.C., lies the CFG Bank Arena (14,000), which reopened in April 2023 after an OVG-funded $250m renovation. Instead of demolishing and rebuilding, the decision to renovate the historic Baltimore venue kept concrete and rebar out of landfills, shortened the construction timeline from 18 to 11 months, and reduced overall costs, says general manager Frank Remesch.

Originally known as the Baltimore Civic Center, CFG Bank Arena will go from 105 events per year to a projected 130 – with concerts roughly doubling in their line up. With 38 brand-new suites; an in-venue kitchen; expanded bathroom access; better sightlines; improved lighting, rigging, and sound systems; and a doubling of staff, the venue plans to welcome 1m visitors this year, up from 560,000 per year pre-renovation.

“I’ve got a new building with an experienced staff,” says Remesch. “Some nuances with the building we had to learn, but for the most part, we understand the market. We understand what the patrons expect. It’s really worked out well. And we’ve hit the ground running; we’ve had five sold-out shows already.”

The venue opened its doors with a sold-out performance from Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band, followed the next night by The Eagles. CFG Bank Arena will welcome SZA, Andrea Bocelli, Janet Jackson, and KISS in the next year.

Up the east coast, the newest entrant to the NYC territory is UBS Arena (19,000), which opened in November 2021 directly adjacent to city limits in Elmont. While it entered a market faced with staffing and supply chain challenges, venue management has “hit our stride and refined our operation. Our focus now is on delivering the best possible experience for our guests and clients,” says general manager Michael Sciortino.

“Within this competitive marketplace, it is extremely important that everyone who sets foot inside UBS Arena has a fun, easy, and memorable experience, to ensure they come back soon,” he adds.

“All you have to do is stand in the crowd and feel the energy of one of our recent sold-out concerts to know the industry is very much alive and well”

The new space is outfitted with modern luxuries, including premier dressing rooms, a state-of-the-art sound system, a back-of-house designed with advice from Live Nation, and is the first New York venue to feature Amazon’s Just Walk Out self-service shop. The LEED-certified venue’s goals for future development centre on sustainability measures, aiming to become a zero-waste venue by the end of 2023 and to continue exploring onsite solar energy possibilities.

While the New York market is potentially the most competitive in the nation, UBS is carving its own path, having hosted Kendrick Lamar, Billie Eilish, and Post Malone since opening, with Aerosmith and John Mayer to play before the year is out.

The US market is fresh with new developments hosting numerous global tours for eager fans around the nation. With overarching goals of improving sustainability measures, combating market inflation, and maintaining staffing levels, the US sector has its work cut out for it. But from coast to coast, live music is bringing Americans back together again.

“All you have to do is stand in the crowd and feel the energy of one of our recent sold-out Bruce Springsteen or Suga concerts to know the industry is very much alive and well,” says Sciortino.

Population: 329.5 million
Language: English
Currency: US dollar (USD)
GDP per capita: $63,543
Internet users: 307.2 million
Active smartphones: 294.2 million

The 2023 edition of the Global Arena Guide is out now. Find out more on the dedicated year-round mini-site.


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AGF report reveals festivals’ carbon impact

A new report released by sustainability not-for-profit A Greener Future (formerly A Greener Festival) has offered a fresh insight into festival carbon footprints.

The Festival Carbon Footprint study, which is based on data from 17 festivals around Europe, reveals that audience travel is the largest source of emissions, contributing to 41% of the carbon footprint on average when a more complete account of scope 3 emissions is included.

When including wider travel such as production, traders and artists, travel and transport represents closer to 58%, with food and drink responsible for an average of 34%.

The study notes that while audience travel is commonly stated as 80% or more of a festival’s carbon footprint, most studies omit the impacts of food & drink, materials purchased, or trader travel. In some cases, production and artist travel are also missing from the picture.

Moreover, when accounting for more complete emissions sources the breakdown is more nuanced – with many emissions generated as a result of production and planning decisions – rather than through audience travel choices alone.

“We love festivals, their contribution to culture, and their potential to show alternative ways of living”

“We love festivals, their contribution to culture, and their potential to show alternative ways of living,” says AGF CEO Claire O’Neill. “It’s important to have a fuller picture to understand their carbon footprints. Focus for event sustainability is often on waste, cups, and audience travel. Whilst clearly important, this is a narrow view missing broader impacts. This can delay important decisions at the planning and design stage, such as moving away from animal and other high impact food and drinks.”

Authors note that broad carbon footprint averages should be treated with caution, as the disparity between the variety of festivals is significant. For instance, audience travel emissions ranged from around 20% to 75% of a festival’s footprint, depending on scale, location and nature of the event.

As more events collect this type of information, it will become more accurate and will help identify further improvements.

The report also highlights that carbon footprints do not provide insight into other impacts such as light or noise pollution, direct habitat disturbance, or pollution on site, which require biodiversity and environmental impact assessments. It also shows potential for time spent at a festival to create fewer emissions than time spent at home.

The analysis is based on festivals and events that are already taking significant sustainable actions.

For the next phase of the study, AGF invites interested industry groups, festivals and sustainability organisations to collaborate with shared information, for a clearer picture for the festival and events sector as a whole.

The full report can be downloaded from A Greener Future’s website here.


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Sziget CEO discusses ‘new and improved’ festival

Sziget CEO Tamás Kádár has spoken to IQ about the new and improved experience at this year’s festival.

The 30th-anniversary edition took place 10-15 August at the event’s longtime home of Óbudai-sziget, in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. Headliners were Billie Eilish, Lorde, Florence + The Machine, Imagine Dragons, David Guetta, Macklemore and Mumford & Sons.

While 2023 ticket sales were slightly lower than the previous year, Kádár says this was expected due to pent-up demand and a high number of rollover tickets after the pandemic.

Sizing up the success of this year’s instalment, he says: “This year, we had two days which ran almost at full capacity, guests were coming from over 80 countries to Budapest, and Sziget was again one of the most international festivals in the world, providing a unique experience for young people from all over.”

“The entire look and feel of the festival was a huge step forward”

The fan experience at the festival was a major focus for the Sziget team, with major investments and improvements in decoration, catering, sustainability and amenities.

“Since the beginning, Sziget has been constantly improving and developing, with innovations in different areas every year,” explains Kádár. “However, last year, after a two-year interruption, we were happy that we managed to survive the difficulties which were overwhelming for many, and which were attacking us on several fronts. This year, however, we were back on the road to progress.

“The entire look and feel of the festival was a huge step forward, the new toilet blocks, the food courts, the decoration, the art all over the place made a great change to the experience of our visitors not to mention the spectacular venues like the TicketSwap Colosseum, the Samsung Party Arena, the Cirque du Sziget, which looked all really amazing.”

One of Sziget’s biggest considerations when designing the 2023 edition was the country’s monster inflation rate, which has lingered around 20% –  the highest in Europe.

“The inflation rate is a huge problem for the entire country”

“The inflation rate is a huge problem for the entire country, especially the food inflation rate which was almost 50% throughout the last 12 months,” notes Kádár. “However, with the weaker Forint this inflation is not as high in Euro terms. The only impact we see for our customers is higher food prices on the festival but this price level is still lower than Western-European or UK prices.”

In response to the food inflation rate, each vendor in Sziget’s new food court was required to offer at least one so-called “budget food” with a maximum price of €6.50.

Catering was also the subject of increased sustainability, with a key aim to offer food prepared with a smaller carbon footprint.

Organisers launched a campaign among caterers that resulted in 80% of those partners offering at least two vegetarian main courses, and over 40% of partners not offering any red meat at all. The campaign also aimed to increase the proportion of Hungarian food used by caterers. A set of seven sustainability criteria was also introduced, of which at least two criteria must be met by all caterers.

“I hope this festival will maintain its leading place amongst the top European festivals in the next 30 years as well”

Elsewhere in the sustainability realm, the festival recycled 50% of the total waste – 8% more than last year. A special camping section was provided for those who wanted to spend time in a waste-free environment and made a commitment to this.

In addition, on a trial basis, a special carbon offsetting scheme was launched for those arriving at the festival by plane, and only electric or human-powered vehicles were used on the festival site.

“We are constantly improving and changing things to please our visitors and we already have great plans for 2024,” teases Kádár. “Sziget was founded 30 years ago in 1993. I hope this festival will maintain its leading place amongst the top European festivals in the next 30 years as well.”

A special feature celebrating Sziget’s 30th anniversary will be published in the next edition of IQ Magazine.


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‘Climate change is the fight of our lives’: Arenas go to battle

Packed calendars, staffing levels, rising production costs, inflation, energy price increases, security… the list of challenges arenas are solving is as long as ever. But one of the most significant issues facing all arenas is environmental sustainability. Around the world, venue companies are rolling out initiatives to reduce waste, cut power consumption, find renewable energy sources, increase efficiency, and eliminate single-use plastics.

Among those leading the way is The O2 in London, which started in 2011 with a wormery to compost food waste and by 2015 was investing heavily in energy reduction projects. By 2019, the venue had reduced its Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions by nearly 80% compared to 2010. Last year, it organised Overheated at The O2, a climate festival with Billie Eilish. And in December, it became the first arena in England to achieve its Greener Arena certification.

In 2019, Live Nation announced its Environmental Sustainability Charter, committing the multinational to reducing the impact of its venues and festivals, setting out eight priority areas: emissions & energy; resource use & waste (including plastic), water, food, public engagement, procurement, transport, and local impacts. “As the world’s leader in live entertainment, we have a responsibility to preserve the live music experience for generations to come and a tremendous opportunity to use our platform to inspire global environmental action,” the company said.

“The two areas that we are focusing on are climate change and resource efficiency”

It took greenhouse gas emissions readings from its events and venues as a baseline, with the aim of achieving a 50% reduction in these emissions by 2030. Patricia Yagüe is Live Nation’s head of sustainability EMEA. She says: “The two areas that we are focusing on are climate change and resource efficiency. Our climate change measures tackle everything to do with emissions – mostly energy and transportation; while resource efficiency is about reducing the use of waste, plastic, water, and so on.” She works across markets in the region navigating the differing regulations, cultures, systems, suppliers and implementing action plans to reach the company’s targets.

Among the challenges facing all arenas when it comes to environmental sustainability are emissions, both the energy usage at venues and for events, and the transportation of fans, supplies, and staff travel. “This can be a particularly tricky challenge because we don’t have 100% control over it, we just have a big influence,” says Yagüe.

“That’s why we’re working really hard on promoting public transportation and making deals with public transport authorities, running studies with universities to understand how we can influence the travel of the fans.” She says public transport firms are generally very receptive to Live Nation’s overtures to work together to help more people ditch the cars. For example, since 2008, the company’s Belgian venues have seen the number of people arriving by car fall from 65% to 45%.

“We’re also working out how we can power our buildings with renewable energy”

“We’re also working out how we can power our buildings with renewable energy. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not, because in some countries green energy is more expensive.” She says the company has two very ambitious resource eficiency targets: eliminating single-use plastic at venues and festivals and working towards sending zero waste to landfill by 2030. “That’s a big challenge because it’s a systemic problem – waste is a big issue for the whole planet.

“Eliminating single-use plastic from our venues and festivals can present issues because when some of these venues were built, people weren’t thinking about things such as storing reusable cups or security issues around letting fans bring their own water bottles into a venue.” She says in trying to prevent the sale of water in single-use plastic bottles, the company can come up against local legislation – for example, in the USA, you can sell water in aluminium cans, but in some European countries, that’s not allowed.

The company is making strong progress towards its targets. Currently 75% of Live Nation venues in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa run on green energy, and the firm is aiming to have the final 25% on green energy by the end of 2023. As an example of the results of measures already implemented, the company estimates it’s reduced 500 tonnes of CO2 between 2018-2022 in its Italian venues Parcolimpico in Turin (Pala Alpitour – 15,450-cap and Palavela – 12,200-cap), thanks to the installation of a geothermal heat-pump, energy efficiency investments, and retrofits. Meanwhile, the installation of solar panels at the Trixxo Arena and Antwerp Hospitality Centre in Belgium has seen the production of 100% and 50% of daily energy use respectively (excluding events).

The “world’s first carbon-neutral venue” doesn’t use any fossil fuels in the arena for daily use

The Parcolimpico venues also saw a 10% reduction in total waste between 2021 and 2022, thanks to a variety of initiatives, even more impressive when taking into account two major events they hosted – the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 and the Nitto ATP Finals. A reusable cup programme introduced at the Royal Arena in the Danish capital Copenhagen in February 2023 meant 380,000 single-use plastic cups were avoided by June.

Setting a GOAL
Proudly trumpeting its flagship environmentally sustainable venue – the Climate Pledge Arena (17,200) in Seattle – venues giant Oak View Group puts sustainability at the heart of its business.

The “world’s first carbon-neutral venue” doesn’t use any fossil fuels in the arena for daily use – mechanical systems, gas combustion engines, heating, dehumidification, and cooking have all been converted to electric; solar panels combined with off-site renewable energy means it uses 100% renewable energy power; and it offsets all carbon emission activities it can’t control – like transportation. It aims to be single-use-plastic free by 2024, and rainwater collected using the roof is turned into ice for the resident ice hockey team’s rink.

Manchester’s forthcoming Co-op Live features 10,500 sqm (1.5 x a football pitch) of rooftop solar panels

OVG EVP facilities development and management Brian Kabatznick says the sustainability initiatives implemented at the Climate Pledge Arena are being rolled out across its other new builds and renovations where possible. Among them, Manchester’s forthcoming Co-op Live features 10,500 sqm (1.5 x a football pitch) of rooftop solar panels, air source heat pumps, high-spec insulation, and a façade designed to reduce cooling and heating requirements. The venue’s architecture is paired with renewable energy, low carbon technologies, and intelligent building controls such as LED lighting design and smart building systems to minimise energy use.

But OVG knows that action without measurement and accountability is meaningless, so earlier this year it launched GOAL (Green Operations and Advanced Leadership) – a data platform that enables subscribers to measure their performance against a broad set of sustainability standards specifically designed for venues. It includes a tactical roadmap for achieving the standards, a customised tracking tool for long-term accountability, a library of resources, and access to like-minded operators, vendors, and sponsors who are committed to operating more sustainably.

Member venues can track their performance against scientifically backed standards on aspects such as energy and water use, greenhouse gas emissions, waste management, indoor air quality, and health and wellbeing. “We have 25 venue clients on board so far, including Fenway Sports Group (owners of Liverpool Football Club and the Boston Red Sox among others), State Farm Arena (15,590) in Atlanta, and many of our stadium and arena partners,” says Kabatznick. “We are launching in Europe as well, with some venues that we have a close relationship with.

“Everybody’s got a sustainability platform, but this is all about measurement”

“Everybody’s got a sustainability platform, but this is all about measurement. It means people can look at consistent information show-by-show and by venue. We’re really excited about that, because it’s one thing to say you’re sustainable, it’s another thing to say, ‘we’re comparing ourselves to events in our building and can compare ourselves to other venues, in other cities, regions, countries, and continents.’ It means everyone is challenged and working from consistent metrics that allow everyone to think about exactly how to make our businesses more sustainable and better.”

As one of the largest venue companies in the world, Oak View Group’s portfolio includes the Acrisure Arena in Palm Springs, California, CFG Bank Arena in Baltimore, and UBS Arena in New York.

Green Europe
The European Arenas Association, which represents 37 arenas in 20 European countries, has partnered with A Greener Future (formerly A Greener Festival) to roll out Arena Sustainability Guidelines. Based on foundational requirements of Greener Arena Certification, the guidelines are intended to help venues with the green transition.

“We are delighted to be partnering with AGF on this important initiative,” said EAA president Olivier Toth. “Our members are committed to reducing their environmental impact and promoting sustainability across our industry. This collaboration is an opportunity for us to share our expertise and work together to create sustainable business practices that will benefit not only our members but the entire industry.”

“Anything less [than a green business] will not survive the next decade”

AGF CEO Claire O’Neill said: “Being a green business is not only essential for creating a better future for life and communities, it’s the only way to do any kind of sustainable business. Anything less will not survive the next decade. Through this collaboration with the EAA, we have created guidelines to get arenas started that are relevant, practical, and effective, helping arenas transition to long-term, sustainable operations.”

Developed from the latest research and best practices in sustainable venue management, the guidelines act as a set of recommended practices to help EAA member arenas in their decision-making, planning, and implementation. The guidelines are also available to non-EAA members who want to adopt greener business practices.

With more than 40 certified green venues already, ASM Global is working with sustainability consultancy firm Honeycomb Strategies to offer innovative approaches and sustainable solutions to its portfolio of more than 350 venues around the world.
In March, the company pledged a number of environmental goals, including reducing energy consumption by 25% by 2030; ensuring 20% of all energy consumed is from renewable energy sources by 2025; and being carbon neutral by 2050 (milestones: 25% carbon reduction by 2030, 50% carbon reduction by 2040). It has also committed to diverting 50% of overall waste by 2025, eliminating front-of-house plastic by 2027, and reducing water consumption by 25% by 2030.

“We get involved in arena projects really early… so, we have a real influence over sustainability from the design stage”

In addition, ASM Global’s entire portfolio of UK-operated venues – including AO Arena Manchester, OVO Arena Wembley, OVO Hydro in Glasgow, P&J Live in Aberdeen, and others, is undergoing certification via A Greener Arena. “The independent  certification process provides external verification that carbon reduction and transition strategies are at the heart of all venue operations, from catering to materials used and circularity,” the company says in a statement.

In the Middle East, ASM Global recently opened Exhibition World Bahrain, adding to its portfolio, which includes the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai and is set to see the Jeddah Arena Airport City open in Saudi Arabia. “We get involved in arena projects really early, often before the architects do,” says Iain Campbell, ASM Global EVP of the MENA region. “So, we have a real influence over sustainability from the design stage.”

As an example, he cites measures installed at the Coca- Cola Arena: “We installed a huge air curtain in between the loading dock and the main floor, in order to prevent loss of cool air from the building during load-in and load-out. You wouldn’t do that in in London or in North America, but it’s so hot here that we’re very focused on ensuring efficiency of our air conditioning systems and monitoring the temperature of the building. In fact, we’ve got one guy that pretty much all he does is check the stairwells are airtight to make sure we’re not losing cool air.

“More regulation is coming in, especially in Europe, which is pushing governments to fix the systemic challenges we encounter”

“There are also water fountains, in order to reduce single-use plastics; all of the food packaging is sustainable; we monitor energy and water demand, air quality and air movement. We only have 1,500 car parking spots in order to encourage people to come by public transport or a ride-sharing service. At a recent 50 Cent show, we had just 700 cars here, which is great.”

Campbell says that educating audiences about sorting their waste into recyclable, compostable, and other waste has been very successful, and everyone adheres to it.

So, what does the future hold? Live Nation’s Yagüe says she’s feeling very positive. “In the last couple of years, more regulation is coming in, especially in Europe, which is pushing governments to fix the systemic challenges we encounter. Plus, suppliers are providing new products that we can use, such as reusable cups and batteries charged with renewable energy. Everyone is fully on board, and I feel very hopeful for the future.”

As OVG CEO Tim Leiweke told IQ: “Climate change is without a doubt the fight of this generation’s lives.” And arenas around the world are signing up in droves to join the battle.


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Billie Eilish’s Lollapalooza set to be solar powered

Billie Eilish’s headline set at Lollapalooza in Chicago will be partially solar powered by zero-emission battery systems.

The climate-friendly performance on Thursday 3 August is part of the Music Decarbonisation Project co-founded by Eilish herself in partnership with the environmental non-profit Reverb.

The 21-year-old’s set at the flagship Lollapalooza will be powered by zero-emissions battery systems, supplied and managed by Overdrive Energy Solutions and charged via a temporary “solar farm” at the Grant Park festival site.

The battery systems will serve as a demonstration of clean energy technologies that can drastically reduce live music’s greenhouse gas pollution and accelerate the shift away from fossil fuels, reads a release.

“By showcasing this technology with one of the biggest artists in the world, we’re accelerating toward a decarbonized future”

“We hope and believe this will be a watershed moment for the music industry,” says Adam Gardner of Reverb in a statement. “There are real climate solutions available right here, right now. By showcasing this technology with one of the biggest artists in the world, on one of the most revered festival stages, we’re accelerating the necessary transition toward a decarbonized future, for music and beyond.”

The sustainability project is one of Elish’s many efforts to combat climate change. The US singer previously partnered with Reverb for her 2022 Happier Than Ever world tour, where they set up Eco-Villages at her concert venues.

The star has also performed at numerous climate change-awareness events such as Global Citizen, the Earthshot Prize and Overheated.

Lollapalooza takes place between 3–6 August with acts including Kendrick Lamar, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lana Del Rey, Odesza, Karol G, The 1975 and Tomorrow X Together.


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Yourope launches European Green Festival Roadmap

Yourope, the European festival association, has unveiled the European Green Festival Roadmap 2030, a comprehensive guide designed to assist European festivals and events in adopting sustainable practices.

Developed as part of the “Future-Fit Festivals” (3F) project, the roadmap aligns with the EU Green Deal’s emissions reduction target of at least 55% by 2030.

It also incorporates the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and industry requirements. The roadmap is the result of collaboration between Yourope, A Greener Future (AGF), Greener Events Norway, and the GO Group (Green Operations Europe) think tank.

The European Green Festival Roadmap 2030 provides a comprehensive framework comprising seven areas of action, offering practical recommendations ranging from management structures to specific sustainability measures in event creation and production processes. It is publicly available and accessible free of charge to any European festival or cultural event.

The association says that this joint pan-European publication represents a significant milestone for the festival sector, providing a valuable tool for organisers not only within the European Union but also internationally.

During its preview at the Green Events & Innovation Conference (GEI) in London and the 9th international GO Group workshop in Barcelona, the roadmap received overwhelming interest and feedback from industry professionals. The development process, which commenced in early 2022, involved kick-off workshops and public discussion panels with representatives from the European Commission and Parliament.

“The roadmap helps prioritise and simplify the actions individual festivals need to take”

Holger Jan Schmidt, general secretary of Yourope and GO Group co-founder, says, “Improving our festivals and increasing sustainability throughout the industry is an ongoing topic for Yourope and also for me personally. That’s why it’s a particular pleasure to present the European Green Festival Roadmap as the icing on the cake of tools we recently published – all are open source, accessible to everyone and transferable to other cultural areas. We believe that the roadmap is a big step in the only right direction. Also, it serves as an excellent basis for further exciting and helpful projects.”

Claire O’Neill, CEO of A Greener Future, shared her perspective on the roadmap, saying, “After nearly two decades working with festivals worldwide for sustainability, we’re really happy to harness and share learnings in this European Green Festival Roadmap with Yourope. The roadmap helps prioritise and simplify the actions individual festivals need to take, and shines a light on areas for collective effort by the industry and beyond.”

Linnéa Svensson, co-founder of Greener Events Norway and the GO Group, emphasised the urgency of taking action, stating, “Climate change is already upon us. Heavy rain and severe drought are becoming increasingly normal, which tells us there’s no time to lose. It is time to act now – and this roadmap will guide you to get started or even to get more advanced. If you haven’t already, just start by starting!”

The European Green Festival Roadmap 2030 can be accessed through the following link:

Yourope, established in 1998, is the premier association for popular music festivals in Europe, representing approximately 120 festivals and associated organisations from 28 European countries. The association aims to strengthen and enhance the European festival scene while promoting arts, music, and cultural connections.

Yourope’s working groups focus on various festival-related topics, including sustainability, climate action, environmental protection, event safety, marketing and communication, and human resources and wellbeing. The association also hosts the biannual European Festival Conference (EFC) and organises the annual European Festival Awards (EFA).


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Cruïlla to be powered by 100% renewable energy

Cruïlla Festival, one of Barcelona’s three major international music festivals, is to be powered by 100% renewable energy this year.

Organisers believe the four-day event at Parc del Fòrum will be the first large-format festival in Spain to achieve this feat.

All activity during the 5-8 July festival will be plugged into the electricity grid supplied by Spain’s largest electric utility company, Endesa.

This will prevent the emission of 36,000 kg of Co2 and will eliminate the consumption of 13,600 litres of diesel, according to Cruïlla.

The measures will prevent the emission of 36,000 kg of Co2 and will eliminate the consumption of 13,600 litres of diesel

The festival is also on a path to becoming a zero-waste event, having already eliminated plastics. Other sustainability initiatives include free parking for zero-emission cars, capping the daily capacity to 25,000 to limit the pressure on the local area, and providing free water fountains.

Cruïlla and Endesa will carry out a study on the impact of the carbon footprint and an audit on the flow of waste under the supervision of the Waste Agency of Catalonia, with the aim of sharing the learnings with the wider sector.

The 2023 edition of Cruïlla will see performances from international acts including Tash Sultana, The Offspring, Sigur Rós, Alt-J, Franz Ferdinand and Placebo.


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Coldplay reduce tour carbon emissions by 47%

Coldplay say they have cut their carbon emissions by almost half on their record-breaking Music of the Spheres Tour, compared with their last stadium tour.

Having previously put touring plans on hold to investigate how to make their concerts more sustainable, the band’s tour announcement back in late 2021 came hand-in-hand with a 12-point plan for cutting their carbon footprint.

They went on to launch a free app for fans as part of their pledge to make the tour as eco-friendly as possible.

Kicking off in March 2022, the Music of the Spheres World Tour had sold more than six million tickets across Europe, North America, and Latin America. The band play two shows at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium this week from 6-7 June after wrapping up a four-night stint at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium.

The tour has been heralded for its groundbreaking sustainability initiatives, which include a show powered by 100% renewable energy in almost all locations; the world’s first tourable battery system (made from 40 BMW electric car batteries); power bikes and kinetic dancefloors allowing fans to help power the show.

It has also included solar panels and wind turbines at every venue; a pledge to cut tour emissions by 50%; incentives to encourage fans to travel by green transport; and one tree planted for every ticket sold.

The emissions data from the first 12 months of the tour has now been collated, assessed and independently validated by Prof. John E. Fernandez of the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative, prompting to group to share an update on their green goals.

“On a show-by-show comparison, the Music Of The Spheres Tour has so far produced 47% less CO2e emissions than our last stadium tour”

“When we first announced the Music Of The Spheres Tour, we hoped to make it as environmentally beneficial as possible and reduce our direct carbon emissions (from show production, freight, band and crew travel) by 50%,” says a statement from the band.

“On a show-by-show comparison, the Music Of The Spheres Tour has so far produced 47% less CO2e emissions than our last stadium tour (2016-17). This is a good start – and something that our incredible crew should be very proud of – but clearly there’s still room for improvement.

“Now that we’re into the second year of the tour, we’ve started to run the entire show (audio, lights, lasers etc) from an electric battery system that allows us to use 100% renewable energy as efficiently as possible. We have been using electric vehicles and alternative fuels wherever we can, as well as reducing waste and plastic usage to a minimum.”

The band go on to thank “all the brilliant people and creative minds who’ve helped us so far”, as well as their fans for supporting their efforts.

“You have helped charge the show batteries on the power bikes and kinetic dance floors; travelled to shows by foot, bicycle or public transport; used the recycling bins; ride-shared; brought refillable water bottles; returned the LED wristbands after the show,” adds the statement. “And just by coming you have had a tree planted, and helped a range of environmental organisations like The Ocean Cleanup and ClientEarth (a team of lawyers who defend the environment).

“Thankyou all and hopefully this time next year we will have made big improvements. If anyone has any ideas please feel free to send them via this link.”

Subscribers can revisit our in-depth look at the Music of the Spheres trek, first published in Issue 113 of IQ Magazinehere.


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