Led by Hazel Watson and commissioned by English Folk Expo, The Strike a Chord Project set out to investigate the impact of the organisations within the music industry leading the way in tackling the climate emergency. The aim was to discover whether musicians were aware of the work these groups – such as Julie’s Bicycle, Music Declares Emergency, and A Greener Festival – are doing, and whether artists are embedding any of the sustainability solutions into their own careers or practices. Below is the executive summary of the full written report, which can be found at the bottom of this page. Resources mentioned in the project can also be found below, or downloaded in PDF format here.
If you have any questions about the project, get in touch with Hazel at email@example.com
The research was carried out primarily through a survey and a set of interviews. The range of attitudes towards the survey, however, have generated an insight into some much broader and more interesting insights into the prevalent feelings within the music industry surrounding the climate emergency. As such, this report not only discusses practical action but also themes such as responsibility, inertia, systemic issues, cultural leadership, and the power of music to inspire change.
Part One of the report covers personal responsibility and the changes that individuals can make within their personal lives and musical careers to minimise their impact on the environment. The importance of personal responsibility is acknowledged, whilst emphasising the fact that often there is too much weight put on individual behaviour change in an attempt to shift the weight of responsibility from those who are really to blame; namely fossil fuel companies, corporations, and policy-makers. Many of the solutions that are discussed were suggested in the survey to get a sense of whether musicians see them as feasible within their capabilities. Particularly popular solutions tended to be ones that cost the musicians little to no money, including suggestions such as encouraging audience members to lift-share, ensuring sets finish in time for the last bus/tram/train home, adding a suggested donation to a climate charity at point of ticket purchase, and utilising a Green Rider such as the one created by Julie’s Bicycle.
Expectations of the industry are discussed next. Within the research there was an overwhelming sense of frustration amongst musicians stemming from the challenges caused by minimal streaming revenue making it difficult to have any sense of personal agency due to limited financial capacity. The report discusses the appetite amongst musicians to see more collaboration between various members of the industry to help investment in local economies and to reduce the need to transport equipment throughout tours. Within the industry section, the report features a few representatives of various aspects of the industry: festivals, venues, recording studios, and logistics. The importance of a sense of united community is also emphasised, recognising the power of music to bring people together and the subsequent resilience generated by this cohesion.
Part Two is more reflective, delving into the power of music and the role of the artist. The Power of Music section covers themes such as the integral role music has so frequently played in movements for social change, the unifying strength of an anthem, the way that music can speak to everyone in completely different ways, the way it trains us to listen and empathise – skills we can take beyond music and into life – and how art more broadly is a way of co-existing with the non-human in an ecological way.
The ‘Role of the Artist’ section was defined by the responses of those musicians who answered the survey and recognised their own unique capabilities as artists. Their ideas were broadly divisible into five categories of influence: community and solidarity, messaging for social change, nature engagement, influence and education, and emotional processing. Community and solidarity re-emphasises the way that music has a remarkable ability to bring us together in groups and generate a sense of solidarity, whilst also having the potential to bind more interdisciplinary community work. ‘Messages for social change’ discusses the long tradition of musicians being at the centre of social commentary, the concept of ‘backcasting’ within public messaging, and the communally imaginative powers of art. There is a significant body of music that in some way touches on nature engagement and it is arguably a generalisation to suggest that all of this music is ecological. However, this section touches on the abilities of art to re-enchant the natural world, to bring us closer to more-than-human beings, and to highlight that which we are in danger of losing. Music can also be educational in many different forms, musicians have a platform from which to educate, raise awareness, and use their platforms to influence public values. This section also discusses the way in which significant musical events can have a lasting impact, not just culturally but also economically, politically, and socially. Finally, the importance of music as a solace and form of escapism or acceptance in the face of increasing eco-anxiety is highlighted.
The report concludes that music, musicians, and music industry have a unique role to play in the response to the climate emergency. That although we face many social, financial, political, and psychological barriers, the time for inertia has passed, and music – with its powers to unite people behind a cause, reveal truths we don’t always see, and appeal to the hearts of people in a way that science alone often struggles to – has the potential to be a catalyst of change.
Read the full report, here.
These resources are compiled from a mixture of suggestions mentioned in responses to the survey, Hazel’s own research, and speaking to those in the know.
A Greener Festival – https://www.agreenerfestival.com/
A Greener Festival is a not-for-profit company, committed to helping events, festivals and venues around the world to become more sustainable and to reduce environmental impacts.
ecolibrium – https://ecolibrium.earth/
ecolibrium aims to work with hundreds of organisations, artists and individuals to tackle thousands of tonnes of travel emissions, through investment in supporting ecosystem protection, regeneration and clean energy.
Ecostage – https://ecostage.online/
Ecostage was formed around a pledge based on Sustainability, Wellbeing, Interconnectedness, Creativity, Transformation, Inclusivity, and Regeneration. It also has a collection of details practical changes to make behind the scenes of the performing arts. Take the pledge and join the community!
Evolution Music https://evolution-music.co.uk
Evolution Music are introducing bioplastics and circular economy principles to replace single use plastics and minimise waste in the music industry. They aim to help evolve the music industry to amplify this social and environmental message and catalyse responsible behaviour.
Julie’s Bicycle https://juliesbicycle.com/
Julie’s Bicycle is a pioneering not-for-profit, mobilising the arts and culture to take action on the climate and ecological crisis.
Live GREEN – https://livemusic.biz/live-green/
At LIVE we recognise the global climate and biodiversity crisis as the greatest threat to humanity, and understand the importance of collaboration and community in building a sustainable society. We want to enable all in the live music industry to commit to climate action by providing the necessary support, resources and advice.
Powerful Thinking https://www.powerful-thinking.org.uk/
Powerful Thinking is a think-do tank which brings together festivals, suppliers and environmental organisations to explore ways to reduce the costs and carbon through increased efficiency and alternatives, and share findings to promote lower carbon industry.
Uniting around the music we love, tackling the environmental and social issues we face, REVERB is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to empowering millions of individuals to take action toward a better future for people and the planet. We partner with Musicians, Festivals and Venues to green their concert events while engaging fans face-to-face at shows to take environmental and social action.
Choirs for Climate https://choirsforclimate.com
Choirs for Climate have a host of resources aimed at choirs, including music about the climate emergency arranged for choirs (much of it free), information about events and recordings, and suggestions on how to become an eco-friendly choir.
Environmental Music Prize https://environmentalmusicprize.com/
Artists can create a new narrative, help us to dream big and have the power to influence vast audiences that bridge the climate divide. By helping them to speak out about the climate crisis, we will engage millions of music lovers from across the political spectrum and make climate action cool.
Making Tracks https://makingtracksmusic.org/
Making Tracks is an international music exchange programme with an environmental focus, based around an annual UK residency and tour. We bring together exceptional emerging artists to showcase diverse music, initiate new collaborations and explore strategies for music-based environmental engagement.
Nest Collective https://thenestcollective.co.uk/
The Nest Collective is a leading force in contemporary and cross-cultural folk music. They bring people together to experience extraordinary music, rekindling connections with nature, tradition and community.
Oak Project https://oakproject.org.uk/
The Oak Project is building a pioneering arts programme which harnesses the power of cultural moments to connect us to the natural world. We commission artworks and creative activities which explore our relationship with the environment and create meaningful moments of connection. We are researching the power of art to motivate climate action and improve wellbeing.
Poetry & Folk Music in The Environment is a small competition hosted by Home Stage. ‘Folk music and poetry have long been the vehicles for protest, influencing and creating change for the better. Songwriters and poets have maintained their soft and strong influence on world affairs for centuries. Right now, with the climate under siege, there has never been a more important moment for you, the army of creatives, to commence your special sort of warfare.’ Entrants can win £500 and have the opportunity to tour and perform at the 2022 festival. A tree is planted for every entry.
Songhive is a folksong project concerned with raising awareness of the current plight of our native bees. Bees are responsible for 80% of pollination in the UK, are essential to biodiversity, and ultimately the future of humanity. Despite all this, we continue to obliterate the pollen-rich plants they depend on, and our governments insist on legalising pesticides that do them harm.
Earth Percent https://earthpercent.org/
EarthPercent is a charity providing a simple way for the music industry to support the most impactful organisations addressing the climate emergency.
Music Declares Emergency https://musicdeclares.net/gb/
Music Declares Emergency is a group of artists, music industry professionals and organisations that stand together to declare a climate and ecological emergency and call for an immediate governmental response to protect all life on Earth.
Switch It https://switchit.green/
Switch It is a not-for-profit organisation that makes it easy for anyone to move their money out of institutions that fund fossil fuel companies.
Evolution Music https://evolution-music.co.uk
Evolution Music are introducing bioplastics and circular economy principles to replace single use plastics and minimise waste in the music industry. They aim to help evolve the music industry to amplify this social and environmental message and catalyse responsible behaviour change.
No Encore Apparel https://noencoreapparel.com/
A sustainable future for music merchandise. Vintage and secondhand clothing reimagined, repurposed and reprinted to make your merch.
Sustainable UK print-on-demand supplier for a renewable, circular future.
Events and Venues
The Big Climate Thing https://thebigclimatething.com/
The Big Climate Thing is taking place in NYC; a festival where proceeds go to Earth Percent. The organisation – Climate Control Projects – aims to channel music industry funds to climate initiatives and raise $100 million by 2030.
FutureYard aims to become the first carbon-neutral grassroots venue in the north (Birkenhead). ‘Pop26’ was a day of ‘climate debate, conversation + collective action in DIY music’.
What a Wonderful World https://whataww.org/
What a Wonderful World is a Climate Action Group which brings the arts and sciences together to raise local awareness of the climate emergency and bio-diversity loss and what we can each do in our homes and communities to tackle it.
Wild Rumpus https://wildrumpus.org.uk/
Wild Rumpus CIC is a social enterprise producing large scale outdoor arts events, most often in wild natural landscapes. We believe that when audiences engage together in the highest quality arts in the great outdoors, something quite amazing can happen. We believe that arts and culture have a unique role to play in helping people to gain new perspectives on the existential threat posed to civilisation by the loss of biodiversity on a level never witnessed before.
Musicians – Practical Changes/Direct Actions
Brian Eno https://earthpercent.org/
Brian Eno set up the charity Earth Percent and helped with the Coldplay tour.
Coldplay have pioneered some sustainable touring practices in their Music of the Spheres tour with initiatives like the kinetic dancefloor which engages the audience to be a part of the solution.
Jack Johnson https://johnsonohana.org/home
Jack Johnsonset up the Johnson Ohana Foundation, a charity founded to promote positive and lasting change within communities by supporting organizations that focus on environmental, art, and music education.
Love Ssega https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/love-ssega-clean-bandit-toxic-air-action-london-b930985.html
Love Ssega called for tough action to combat the dangers of toxic air for ethnic minority communities; he also released an EP and art project to coincide with Earth Day 2021.
Massive Attack https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-58442599
Massive Attack tracked their carbon emissions during tour. Their data has been used by the Tyndall Centre to work out how best to decarbonise the music industry, and the Coldplay tour drew on this.
Neil Young https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/neil-young-protests-dakota-access-pipeline-with-indian-givers-video-102903/
Neil Young used his platform and music to protest oil pipelines in Dakota.
Nick Mulvey https://www.folkradio.co.uk/2019/10/nick-mulvey-record-recycled-ocean-plastic/
Nick Mulvey has been involved with Extinction Rebellion, contributes to Earth percent, and the vinyl for the release of his track ‘In the Anthropocene’ was made from sea plastic retrieved from Cornish beaches.
Strike A Chord: A Playlist
Julie’s Bicycle ‘Green Rider’ https://juliesbicycle.com/resource/green-rider/
Music Declares Emergency Action Pack https://musicdeclares.net/assets/documents/pdfs/MDE-MUSIC-INDUSTRY-CLIMATE-PACK.pdf
Meeting the Challenge of the Climate Emergency in the Music Industry – a panel with Sam Lee (Musician), Ross Patel (Whole Entertainment), Claire O’Neill (A Greener Festival) and Joel Mills (British Council), presented as part of the ‘Folk Talk Live’ event on Weds 8th December 2021 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cF_vNr8M6I4