A greener way of touring

Industry experts unite to measure the environmental impact of Bring Me The Horizon’s Survival Horror Tour.

Striving to calculate greener conventions and a direction of responsibility, Tour Production Group (TPG) joined forces with Kilimanjaro Live, AEG Presents, Raw Power Management and United Talent Agency (UTA) to measure the environmental impact of Bring Me The Horizon (BMTH)’s latest UK tour.

With promoters, venues, agents and management on board, the collective drew their battle plans to decide how best to calculate and offset the touring production’s footprint, assessing everything from travel production, to catering, water usage, and more. A Greener Festival (AGF) Co-Founder, Claire O’Neill was parachuted in to oversee the implementation of a greener tour.

“AGF started 15 years ago working specifically on festivals, researching audience attitudes to discover what was largely counterculture at that period of time, bringing into the mainstream, larger sectors of the music industry,” O’Neill began, explaining her two decades of experience helping events, festivals and venues to become more sustainable and to reduce environmental impacts.

“We worked with outdoor events internationally at that time, establishing the Greener Festival Awards, which is a green certification for festivals, from the scale of Glastonbury to small, grassroots and local festivals,” O’Neill commented.

In 2015, AGF began developing training programmes which encompassed everything the collective amassed in the field, beginning to train auditors, assessors and sustainability managers across the globe.

In the meantime, AGF developed its consultancy arm, underpinned by knowledge accumulated over the years, which spread out into different parts of the industry from 2015 as sustainability moved further up the agenda, working closely with sports events, and more recently, venues, arenas and tours.

“Our work has been all-encompassing for close to two decades now,” O’Neill recalled, adding the astronomical rise in sustainability awareness in recent years. “When we began, it was really about raising awareness and taking a marginal concept and trying to bring it into a mainstream commercial area of the business.”

In the past five years alone, sustainability has gained global traction, with more people aware or conscious of their environmental impact on a societal and sector-specific level. “We have gradually begun to see more CEOs and key decision makers, who have the ability to effect widespread change, connect with those on a grassroots level,” O’Neill said, adding that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a huge shift in perceptions, with exponential awareness and activity for sustainability in the live industry in particular.

“The pandemic has caused us to pause and reflect, and those who are actually capable of making things happen who are normally too busy to change systems and evaluate how to do things differently, were able to pay attention to sustainability,” she explained.

O’Neill referenced the formation of collectives such as TPG and LIVE Green as “testament” to the increased focus on sustainability in the sector. “We came out of a lot of discussions which were insisting and motivated through these platforms where broader industry was brought together,” O’Neill noted. As a result of such conversations, TPG’s Jamal Chalabi, the BMTH touring camp and key stakeholders, pulled together, in an unprecedented experiment to assess the environmental impact of a UK tour – committed to seeing what they could do to make a difference and make changes going forward.

“This is a positive time for sustainability,” O’Neill said, optimistically. “It is not to say we have all the answers ready to be transformed and laid out; this project reflects a wider, collective journey which causes us to pause, reflect on what works and what doesn’t work in reality, assess what opportunities are there now, what challenges we need to address, and how we can share that data and learning as an open source.” Equally, O’Neill believes live music’s commitment to net zero by 2030 marks an important milestone not only for the industry but for wider sustainability.

“This puts out a green light out to suppliers and organisations to move in a way and supply solutions which are more sustainable – whether that’s trucking, sound, or lighting,” O’Neill said, recalling the positive direction of continued discourse. “The response from the sector has been positive. More organisations have been in touch with what they’re working on, wishing to connect and analyse their carbon footprint. We’ve agreed where we want to get to but now we must work collectively to find out how we’re going to get there.”

‘Live music still conquers all’ – Bring Me The Horizon: Survival Horror Tour

It was hard to imagine business other than usual prior to the pandemic, and then the sector witnessed all flights grounded, with tours and festivals postponed and eventually cancelled. “It showed our position in the pecking order as part of the ecosystem, as opposed to its dominator. If we don’t support the ecosystem, we will be floored within a blink of an eye. Changes will happen more quickly once we get back on our feet; let’s not pretend it isn’t difficult for people returning to work,” O’Neill said, acknowledging the sector’s gradual return to full strength after an 18-month battle.

“The past year-and-a -half has been quite heavy on the sector’s workforce. It’s going to be interesting to see what comes from the data from the BMTH tour and seeing what can be implemented as standard, connecting with venues, and the greener arena certifications to standardise practices across arenas, as well as putting good practice into place for suppliers going forward, with hopefully, more space for more live events, safely,” O’Neill said, explaining that the key to cohesion is being an open source and sharing information going forward, as an industry of doers who are consistently learning from their mistakes.

“Something I’ve found important with this process is the feedback and input of all the different expertise on the BMTH tour, from technical suppliers to venues, each provide a unique perspective and expertise about how their world works and intersect with one another,” O’Neill said, noting that rather than this experiment being a top down approach, it’s been a bilateral project – from rigging and lighting kit, leaving warehouses to hitting the road to find out how each department impacts each other.

“From this data, we can paint a wider picture of how we can curate a more sustainable sector with quantifiable data and an adequate working culture going forwards.” KB Event supplied 10 Megacube Box Artics, including merchandise, to the tour. All the trucks were Euro VI rated and powered by HVO biofuel – avoiding approximately 23 tonnes of CO2 emissions across the six-date run. “The fact that the band and management were willing to incorporate HVO biofuel demonstrates their commitment to sustainable and environmentally friendly touring. Hopefully this will pave the way for the future,” KB Event MD, Stuart McPherson commented.

Changes the sector can make, as per TPG and LIVE Green’s open letter on sustainability, include: evaluating venue power, being run by green grid and renewable energy sources, converting lighting fixtures to LED; stocking enough grid shore power for tour trucks and buses, electric or ultra low emission runner vehicles, with a no idling policy; zero single-use plastic or alternative compostable solutions; water refill stations; sustainable food and beverage partners maximising plant-based ingredients and minimising waste; understand, improve impacts and demonstrate action by obtaining green certification; encourage vendors and suppliers to do the same; incorporate sustainability policies, protocols and targets into contracts and local vendor procurement; support local community programmes on environmental, health and wellbeing.

Chalabi concluded: “It’s important that this is a bilateral industry initiative decision, and BMTH have been gracious enough to allow us to experiment.”

This article originally appeared in issue #266 of TPi, which you can read here.