Massive Attack call on music industry to ditch the tour bus and go green

By Tristan Cork

Bands should ditch the tour bus and the practice of moving huge sets from stadium to stadium, and festival tickets should include free public transport.

They're just some of the recommendations from Bristol music legends Massive Attack, who have signed their name to a ground-breaking report into the impact on the environment of the live music industry.

The Bristol duo supplied data to scientists at the University of Manchester’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, and worked with the researchers and Gloucestershire’s own green energy businessman Dale Vince, to produce the report which recommends many ways the music industry can and should reduce its carbon emissions.

READ MORE: Inside the Ashton Gate concerts - 13 things you didn't know about how they staged four gigs in BS3

The practice of big bands travelling around in a tour bus followed by a convoy of HGVs with their elaborate sets on board between each venue on a world tour is something Massive Attack’s report highlights.

When big stadium tour bands like Take That and The Spice Girls played Ashton Gate in 2019, the set-up involved a fleet of lorries waiting outside the stadium for one stage and set to be taken down before entering to set up another - and Take That even had two stadium sets on the road to set up at alternate venues.

Massive Attack’s report covers everything from how artists move around, the venues they play at and how fans get to those venues. It recommends more use of ‘plug-in-and-play’ venues and festival sites that are already set up and don’t need the huge banks of generators to power stages in the middle of fields with no connection to the grid.

Other recommendations include:

  • Plan tour routes in a way that minimises travel and transport
  • Include travel by public transport in the ticket price
  • Generate renewable energy on site, e.g. solar panels
  • Gig and concert venues should use renewable energy
  • Use energy efficient lighting and sound equipment
  • Use electric vehicles and trains to travel between venues
  • Better bike storage at music venues
  • Avoiding flying and eliminating private jets
  • Perform at venues that are taking action to reduce their building energy use
  • Offer incentives to fans who choose to travel by public transport

Rob Del Naja, from Massive Attack, said the findings of the research into the band's tour and the recommendations from the Tyndall scientists were not surprising, because the solutions to climate change are already known.

“When we turn up at festivals, we use the same gear. We get on the same stage. Most of the stuff we use is pretty similar,” he said. “It sounds crazy that bands are crisscrossing the same highways at night with the same gear with the same big lorries - it's unnecessary.

“But primarily, we feel the Tyndall roadmap presents all in the live music sector with a range of opportunities to innovate and lead the field in combating the climate emergency.

“Blending report recommendations into all future live performance planning will now allow us to experiment with innovative technologies, and to develop further unique relationships with Local Authorities, promotors, venues, system designers and transport and power providers to create new production models, to share as open resources with live music operations of any size or scale."

Bus heading straight to Massive Attack (Martin Booth - bristol247.com)

He added: “We’re keen to accelerate potential solutions that are beginning to emerge as collectively, we begin to provide answers to direct challenges emanating from the Tyndall report.

“For indoor shows, which venues and promoters can provide “plug and play” options to remove the constant and unnecessary movement of touring production freight that often duplicate within 24-hour show-to-show cycles? How easily can venues switch their power supplies to genuinely renewable sources that materially increase new solar and wind capacity for the UK grid overall?

“For our festival sector facing the inevitability of increased environmental measures within the licensing framework and the urgent replacement of diesel power: what role can central and local government now play in the provision & viability of clean battery technology for festival events? Where can new local & national partnerships with promoters be created, that plug events into the power grid and create localised supply chains, including catering, services, and equipment?

“And for both: how do we incentivise audience travel via rail; where can we utilise pre-sale periods for rail travellers, smart-to-rail ticketing, freestanding event-specific offer pages operated by train providers, and ultimately for major events – the experimental use of individual chartered trains? Who are the partners to collaborate on smart-routing tours, adapting transportation possibilities to the lowest carbon emitting option, and test electric freight options & the viability of rail freight networking?”

Take That appeared at Ashton Gate for one night, with one of two huge sets that involved a fleet of HGVs transporting them around Europe (Bristol Live)

The band said: "Massive Attack are committed to using whatever direct power or wider influence we have to forward these objectives. But we also want to see these transitions carried out fairly and equitably, in order that smaller independent venues and festivals who have suffered so badly during the COVID 19 pandemic don’t suffer further – and are financially supported in their own adaptations, by both the government and the sector overall. As the report makes clear:

"We recommend that the sector act collaboratively to support smaller venues and festivals that may struggle to meet improved regulation and standards to be well positioned for the net zero transition," they added.

"As we now approach the critical COP26 moment, the call from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” will be ringing in our ears. We hope the Tyndall Roadmap fires a starting pistol for the music industry to embrace the multiple opportunities for change the report authors have provided, and that live music can lead the way in decarbonising the world.

"'Code red for humanity' could not be more vivid. We must act now."

Massive Attack's vision has been backed by West of England metro mayor Dan Norris.

“This is a great piece of work that shows strong moral leadership," he said. "We hear plenty of eco-friendly tracks with Billie Elish warning us and Will.I.am issuing an SOS - but it’s a world famous West of England band really setting the agenda. If we are to reach our ambitious net zero targets by 2030 here in the West then every sector needs to do its bit. That includes all our businesses from the entertainment industry to Bristol airport and everything in between."

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