Kultuurikompass to Focus on Reducing the Footprint of Global Music Industry as a Key Issue

In difficult times, culture has always been an escape and a promoter of peace and democracy. The role of culture is invaluable during difficult times when we as a society are tackling various issues from safety and security to climate crisis. It may sound naive but I sincerely believe that culture and the arts have the ability to inspire and influence the way people think and act.

Triin Pikk. Photo: Mana Kaasik

The Kultuurikompass forum: ‘How to Change the World Through Environmentally Friendly Cultural Management?’ taking place on 28 April in Tartu is dedicated to sustainable cultural management and includes speakers such as Artur Mendes, Co-Manager of Boom Festival, and Lewis Jamieson who has collaborated with many famous artists, from Billie Eilish to Brian Eno and Groove Armada, on awareness campaigns. 

The music industry, like many other sectors of the entertainment industry, has an enormous global footprint. In the UK alone, concerts emit into the atmosphere 405,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, while the average touring DJ emits 35 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, which is 17 times higher than the personal carbon allowance. 

The problem, however, is much bigger, as even listening to music at home is not completely innocent: both the production of vinyls and CDs and media streaming have a significant environmental impact. Streaming is equated one-on-one with a smaller footprint, and as a result, consumption of recorded music is now breaking all previous records in this regard. For instance, the 4.6 billion streams of Luis Fonsi’s 2017 hit single ‘Despacito’ have consumed as much electricity as the combined annual electricity consumption of Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Somalia, Sierra Leone and the Central African Republic. 

Thankfully, not everyone in the industry is standing idly by and continuing to operate in their current comfort. In Scotland, for example, a nightclub was opened that uses the body heat of partygoers to generate electricity, cool the air or heat the building later. More and more festivals are going green and generating their own electricity from renewable resources on-site and banning meat products and single-use plastics. Artur Mendes, a manager of a festival of psychedelic music and culture in Portugal, is coming to the Kultuurikompass forum in Tartu on 28 April to talk about how their festival has become more and more sustainable thanks to their strategic planning since the early 2000s. 

It is not only events who are looking to become more eco-friendly, many artists have also started to critically review their actions. Many of them are either cutting back on touring, swapping flights for trains, or hiring local providers instead of travelling with a huge crew of technicians. Billie Eilish, for example, has promised to ban single-use water bottles from her concerts, which is, on average, expected to eliminate 35,000 single-use water bottles per show. 

Eilish is also one of the 6,300 artists, organisations and music industry professionals who has signed the Music Declares Emergency pledge to reduce the carbon footprint of the music industry. Lewis Jamieson, a founding member and Communications Director of Music Declares Emergency, is coming to Kultuurikompass forum to talk about how they have gotten a number of internationally recognised musicians to speak out on their behalf and how they are fighting to amplify the voice of music as a powerful form of culture to raise awareness about the climate and ecological emergency. Because there is ‘no music on a dead planet’, as their motto says. 

The global climate crisis affects us all, both at the individual and professional level, and in all sectors and areas. I am delighted that so many major players of Europe are coming to Estonia to discuss and develop solutions for tacking this global challenge. We have an invaluable opportunity to be a trailblazer in the area of sustainable cultural management in Estonia and Europe. The first official and joint step towards this ambition in Europe takes place in Tartu on 28 April.    

Kultuurikompass is a forum developed by the Tartu 2024 Foundation and Tartu City Government inviting culture managers, artists and entrepreneurs to learn from each other. Tartu wishes to continue the Kultuurikompass programme even after the end of the European Capital of Culture year. Therefore, Tartu will become a leader, promoter and uniter of key matters in the Estonian cultural sphere.

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