Musicians 'have to be proactive' on climate change

  • Published
Large stadium performance of bandImage source, Getty Images

"Do we really need 27 scene changes? Do we need cars hanging from the ceiling?"

It might not be an obvious question for a superstar agent to be raising, but it's one Emma Banks, who co-founded the UK arm of one of the world's biggest music tour agents, is increasingly having to ask.

She says your favourite artist's tours can have up to 60 trucks moving equipment all over the world.

And she says musicians "have to be proactive" about the impact tours like that have on the environment.

Emma's roster at the Creative Artists Agency ranges from other female superstars like Katy Perry, Lorde and Kylie to some of the biggest bands on the planet - including Arcade Fire, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day and Muse.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Emma Banks was given the prestigious Music Industry Trusts Award for her 25 years of contribution to the music industry

"The more shows you have, the more environmental impact it has.

"We need to think more about how we can actually not create the problem in the first place," Emma tells BBC Music Introducing's Does My Music Suck? podcast.

At any given moment it's likely one of those artists is on a world tour - flying around the world playing to thousands of fans every night.

Emma's never had an act turn down a world tour because of its impact on the environment but hopes that will change soon.

As fans become more conscious of their impact on the planet, there's more pressure on artists to show that they care about the impact they're having too.

"Everybody, unless you're under a rock, is bombarded by [climate change] on the TV, on the news, in the newspapers... people are talking about it.

"We have to be proactive."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Emma says transporting huge arena shows around the world is having a big impact on the environment

Emma admits "change will be gradual" but says "every little helps".

"If everyone that's doing a huge tour cut five trucks, that would make an impact.

"It's not going to make as much impact as if you didn't have any trucks, but we can't go and watch people in the dark with no microphones. That's not going to work."

Emma says she's discussed the environmental cost of touring with lots of her acts - and recognises finding ways to reduce their carbon footprint "is a really tricky one".

"While I certainly don't want to be putting anybody out of business, I think we have to start being realistic and going, 'OK, let's just dial it down a bit'."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Ed Sheeran just completed a record-breaking tour that began in 2017 - but his shows are less elaborate than some

Although it's difficult to calculate the exact impact of each individual tour, a 2016 report on the impact of live music events suggested the UK festival scene produced 19,778 tonnes of carbon emissions every year - excluding the travel of artists and fans.

In comparison, football tournament Euro 2016 is reported to have produced a total on 2.8m tonnes, including travel of fans and players.

It's also been suggested that private jets, which many artists use to keep up with their hectic tour schedules, burn 40 times as much carbon per passenger as regular commercial flights.

Some artists have announced plans to reduce the impact of their tours.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Billie Eilish has introduced schemes to reduce the environmental impact of her upcoming world tour

The 1975's label Dirty Hit will donate £1 from every ticket they sell to One Tree Planted, a non-profit organisation that plants trees all over the world.

Billie Eilish is banning plastic straws and offering fans a chance to win tickets by fighting climate change.

The singer has also announced a Billie Eilish Eco-Village at each show - an area where fans can learn about climate change and the importance of making a difference.

Emma was speaking to Rob Adcock on BBC Music Introducing's podcast Does My Music Suck?

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays - or listen back here.