We are all too well aware of the catastrophic consequences the pandemic has had on individuals and communities, and the live music industry in particular, in the past twelve months. Despite everything, the crisis may also prove to be a step towards certain positive developments.
The coronavirus crisis has exposed the fragility of the music industry ecosystem, and forced everyone involved to combine forces on an unprecedented scale in order to secure a future for music. And this is not the case only in Finland – the same universal phenomenon has been identified in a recent report by Live DMA, a European umbrella organisation for live performance. The report investigates the impacts of the pandemic on the live music scene in Europe: "The only positive outcome of this crisis is that the sector is even better structured now and cooperation has increased within the ecosystem. This is an opportunity for the sector and policy makers to cooperate together on the management of this crisis." (https://www.live-dma.eu/2021-stay-alive-new-live-dma-publication/)
The sudden hiatus has also given us an opportunity to examine our activities in a new light and consider the strength of the foundation on which the music industry was built, before the crisis hit. Is it possible for us to return to that time? Do we even want to carry on exactly like we used to? Could we perhaps take a lesson from the crisis and continue to do some things differently in the future?
The coronavirus pandemic has proved to us that when push comes to shove, human beings are capable of changing their habits radically, with short notice. Large, permanent changes in society, however, require commitment, perseverance and collaboration from the majority of us.
KEMUT project: Towards an ecologically sustainable music industry
The need for a permanent change, and the power of large-scale collaborations are the two leading ideas behind a recent sustainability project titled KEMUT – Sustainable music industry toolkit (https://www.kestavamusiikki.net/), launched in spring 2020. The project aims to address the other global problem the humanity is facing: the climate change crisis, which is already underway in Finland and around the globe, although its impacts are sometimes harder to identify than the immediate effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The KEMUT project was prompted by the realisation that although the members of the Finnish music industry have a strong urge to actively do something to slow down climate change, many of us have no clear idea where to start and how. There are, of course, many organisations and individuals in the Finnish live music scene who are already actively working towards ecological sustainability, and various programs, business models and internationally significant initiatives have been created around this theme, for example a more sustainable touring model for Nordic jazz organisations, coordinated by Jazz Finland [see separate story at the end of this article], Sustainable Flow (Flow Festival’s responsibility program), and the carbon neutral Lahti Symphony Orchestra.
Despite these initiatives, there are no universally agreed environmental goals or indicators for the whole music industry, access to the knowhow or tools needed to collect data are not available to everyone, and smaller operators in particular simply lack the resources to tackle these issues on their own.
This is why our leading music event organisers have decided to come together and start the KEMUT project, which aims to provide the whole Finnish music industry with a user-friendly data and information bank as well as offering appropriate calculators to monitor and reduce carbon emissions, for example. In addition, the project wishes to use various communication channels and training to encourage both event organisers and consumers to embrace more environmentally friendly music production practices.
There is a will but more tools are needed
The first stage of the KEMUT project used a web-based survey to map the current practices across the live music industry, as well as identifying what kind of services and tools the industry members require in order to advance ecological sustainability. These same issues were raised in a specific workshop in September. A detailed report outlining the outcomes of the survey is available on the project’s website (in Finnish; https://www.kestavamusiikki.net/selvitys).
To summarise, the survey results indicate that despite the existing pioneering work, sustainability is not a part of all industry professionals’ everyday work, and there is a clear need for information and collaborations.
All in all, those live music professionals who took part in the survey felt that it is extremely important to advance ecological sustainability. However, both discussions with people working in the music industry as well as the survey results repeatedly identified the lack of resources and specific expertise as a challenge.
The live music industry’s major players, festivals in particular, seem to already have familiarised themselves with, and even implemented, those paid services which are readily available. These services, however, do not offer a good fit with smaller organisations’ and individuals’ needs, not to mention the high costs. Interesting projects have definitely been presented by the smaller players as well, but they have had to work considerably harder in order to commit to any sustainability goals. Prioritising sustainability is simply not possible for everyone – and even more so in the present circumstances where the industry is still reeling from the effects of Covid-19. In addition, there seems to be regional differences in Finland in terms of the availability of opportunities to advance sustainability.
According to the survey, the most commonly used ecological sustainability measures today involve the choice of equipment and supply purchases, waste production, accommodation, and the logistics of event producer and artists.The areas that most survey participants would like to focus on more – providing they had the right solutions and tools to do so – include audience logistics and energy consumption at venues. And although event organisers are already considering the central issues around emissions, only very few participants reported having carried out actual carbon footprint calculations.
Roughly a fifth of all survey participants indicated that they or their organisation have taken steps to compensate their carbon footprint. Nearly all participants were interested in different ways of compensating – thus it seems that there is a real demand for good compensation practices across the industry.
Now is the right time
Some may question whether the present coronavirus time is the best moment to focus on sustainability issues in the music industry. How is it possible to implement new practices and carry out plans that reach far into the future, when it is virtually impossible to predict what will happen next week, and when the whole livelihood of the industry is at risk? The timing has no doubt been challenging.
The key takeaway from the KEMUT project, however, is that climate change is not just a problem for the future, but that we have to start creating solutions now. The music industry needs to pitch in through increasing collaborations and a broader change in thinking. The project vision further states that in a time of great insecurity, it is good to focus our strengths on issues that we are actually still able to influence.
Of course, the music industry is far from being the leading environmental polluter globally, and the KEMUT project was not launched in order to identify culprits, let alone create problems for those industry members who are already experiencing great difficulty. Instead, the idea is to provide the industry with more knowledge and tools, as well as helping people to recognise the many different factors that contribute to the environmental load, and identify ways to ease that load.
The music industry is full of professionals in different roles who are creative, innovative and future-minded artists and visionaries. In addition, we are well aware of the power of music and the power of example that artists can use to influence. Why would we not use these attributes and powers for the good of the whole planet?
Our common mission
The first year of the KEMUT project is now complete and the survey results and a new home page have been published. Still, this is just the beginning. In order to reach our target, the whole industry – all of us – must collaborate and find ways to secure continuing funding for the project. Over the past year, it has been rewarding to see several new sustainability projects taking shape across the industry.
In addition to the ecological dimension, the concept of sustainability also includes social and economic aspects. Due to practical reasons, the first phase of the KEMUT project focused on ecological sustainability and the tools associated with it, but the next natural step would be to expand the project to cover the other areas of sustainability as well. And although the KEMUT project has had a single focus on live music production, the universal sustainability challenges remain the same across the whole music industry. Recording and instrument building industries, for example, would benefit from their own surveys and tools.
During the Covid-19 crisis, live music has become a rare commodity across the globe. At the moment, however, we have good reason to believe that the current restrictions will not be in place forever, and that we can survive this crisis. We have already seen glimpses of the spring sun, and before we know it, it will be summer. The light at the end of the quarantine tunnel is growing brighter by the day, and we now have the opportunity to keep building our future with some newly acquired wisdom. To act and to influence before it is too late.
Because who needs live music if the planet is already dead?
Coordinator of the KEMUT project (Sustainable music industry toolkit),
Editor-in-Chief at Finnish Music Quarterly (FMQ)
(Photo: Nina Merikallio)
The aim of the KEMUT (Sustainable music industry toolkit) project, is to provide the Finnish music industry with a user-friendly data and information bank as well as offering appropriate calculators to monitor and reduce carbon emissions, for example. The toolbox, which is tailor-made for the members of the Finnish live music industry, encourages its users to adopt more environmentally friendly music production practices, and is delivered through various communication channels and training. The project is a joint venture between Finland Festivals, LiveFIN, Music Finland, the Finnish Musicians’ Union, Jazz Finland, and the Association of Finnish Symphony Orchestras. The Finnish Music Foundation (MES) provided funding for the first stage of the project.
A more sustainable touring model for Nordic jazz organisations
Jazz Finland is coordinating a pilot project in which 14 Nordic jazz clubs and festivals, five national jazz organisations, and five ensembles work together towards a more environmentally friendly Nordic touring circuit. This network project, which began in January 2020, brings together jazz clubs and festivals from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland in order to develop their collaborations and to improve Nordic music exchange opportunities and the general prerequisites for live concerts.
During the pilot stage of the project, each network member examines the environmental load of their own activities, and produces ecologically sustainable tours for five participating ensembles. Consulted by environmental experts, the promoters and the ensembles plan sustainable touring models – including achieving a lighter carbon footprint through different transport, travel and accommodation options, examining the various areas of event production, and building sustainable partnerships. The workshop facilitators, including representatives from the strategic planning company Positive Impact, have been involved as project consultants from the very beginning, and a practical guide to organising sustainable small and medium sized events has also been produced as part of the project. All 2021 project tours will be documented and published online, all the way from the planning stages to the final evaluation.
A production guide will be published at the end of the pilot project in spring 2022, aimed for Nordic agents, ensembles and promoters, as well as international industry members who are planning to organise concerts in Nordic countries. The KEMUT project has been one of the project’s prime collaborators.