Claire O’Neill, Co-Founder and Director of A Greener Festival and Chair of the Association’s Green Working Group for AFEM, delivered an enlightening green keynote at AFEM’s AGM ahead of ADE. O’Neill shared her expertise on whether the electronic music scene can be a positive force in tackling the climate emergency on an industry-wide level.

Electronic music relies on air travel to bolster its international appeal. The international DJ circuit is a well-established scene that attracts a wide audience attending from all corners of the globe. How do we reduce its environmental impacts? Does the industry have a responsibility to demand a rider that is sustainable and environmentally friendly?

Dockyard Festival, first electronic music events from Amsterdam Dance assessed for AGF Awards
Dockyard, the first electronic music event
from Amsterdam Dance Event assessed for AGF Awards.

A journey to a greener electronic music industry

According to the IMS business report, the electronic music business is worth a staggering 7.2bn with 1.5bn listeners. An audience so large has the ability and worldwide reach to influence beneficial change but we need more help. The corporations behind these profits were not going to change because of idealism, they needed to listen to their audience. We at AGF conducted research into whether sustainability was of importance to festival attendees. The surveyed attendees answered, a resounding yes.

Consequently, festivals from around the world began to sit up and take notice. Following on from this success we established The Greener Festival Award in 2006. As a result, we have assessed over 550 festivals worldwide, from GlastonburyRainbow SerpentBonnaroo, to Amsterdam’s own DGTL festival. We have trained 100’s of people in sustainable event management and have 120 assessors across 20 countries. All of this was sparked by inspiration from electronic music culture.

How we are moving forward

Ultimately, we will have to reshape the fundamental structures that our industry is built upon if they can’t serve a sustainable future. Does a successful DJ career involve 3 countries in 1 weekend? Does a successful show attract a 75% international audience? Do we need to endlessly upgrade electronic hardware rendering last year’s redundant? We need to use our influence to pressure governments to decarbonise the transport sectors and to create an infrastructure for a Circular Economy so the materials we use are used again and again.

 We are challenged to overcome short term competitive differences to make way for collaboration towards common goals. We are challenged to take care and properly research so-called “green” solutions to ensure effective action over knee jerk reactions and potentially fruitless greenwashing. We are a part of the living environment and our physical and mental wellbeing is connected to it. If we are imbalanced, fearful, hateful, greedy or disconnected, our environment mirrors our state of being. 

This year we launched the Green Artist Rider with Paradigm Agency (formerly Coda), designed to facilitate the green aspirations of artists, promoters and venues. Furthermore, in this same year, there have been many actions bringing artists and the music industry together. Encouraging artists to speak up and act on this topic, including the Eco Rider from Bye Bye Plastic campaign, spearheaded by DJ and Producer Blond:ish. In addition, they have been organising beach clean-ups with communities following shows. The sustainable events industry is calling on DJs to use their riders to help eliminate single-use plastics and reduce carbon emissions; there is also Oceanic Global’s Blue Rider, Music Declares Emergency, and Julie’s Bicycle to name just a few.

Why we should act now!

The dangers are there for all to see and the news of our climate’s suffering is a call to action for populations all over the world. Here are some of the key areas due to affect the quality of life for future generations.

  • A decade ago the IPCC predicted uncontrollable, catastrophic climate change if we don’t take drastic action. There is no time for hesitation!
  • Exploitable fisheries in the world’s most populous region – the Asia-Pacific – are on course to decline to zero by 2048.
  • Freshwater availability in the Americas has halved since the 1950s.
  • 42% of land species in Europe have declined in the past decade.

These issues come from our agricultural techniques, land-use, change and loss of habitat and emissions of greenhouse gases from the consumption of fossil fuels. 

As the consequences of inaction become more visceral, there is a growing public demand for pledges and policies in place from industry and governments. Iconic figures such as Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough and international movements such as Extinction Rebellion represent a public demanding climate action. In short, the winds of change are now a roaring hurricane that no-one can ignore.

So, what influence can the Electronic Music Scene possibly have in tackling climate Emergency?

The electronic scene has profound ideals, encouraging modern culture’s need for collective celebration. A mindset that represents actions beyond the needs of the individual. Transcending language with no regard for borders, a global movement that has pioneered radical change, fuelled social movements and championed acceptance and inclusivity throughout its history. For a global problem that needs unity, compassion and innovation, that has solutions that not only add up on paper, but that is alive with vibrancy and soul, I declare that the electronic music scene has potentially unparalleled influence.

Interested in meeting and networking with the green live events industry again? Join us at our Green Events and Innovations (GEI) conference in March 2020. Tickets are on sale now!