Kurt Langer is CEO of Climate Control Projects. Previously, he was Minister of Information for the Beastie Boys’ Milarepa Fund, where he produced the Tibetan Freedom Concerts, and later was one of the founders of Scratch, an international hip-hop tour, a studio for cinema and a goods company. He has also produced three feature films, including the most recent on climate change, and sits on the US board of directors of Earth/Percent, a music industry climate fund launched by Brian Eno.
The music industry has never been better positioned to lead consumer culture into a climate-challenged future – and in doing so, not only create a wealth of new business opportunities, but ensure the longevity of our industry. . More importantly, it will also help address the climate emergency in a profound way.
Decadence is synonymous with the music industry – private jets, island getaways and sprawling single-use cabinets. It’s part of the fantasy we’ve created for our audience. Now there is an opportunity to leverage this power of influence to correct course on the climate, while increasing our results. If our own sense of self-preservation does not demand it, then we have only to turn to the public and the artists who demand it.
According to a recent study, 82% of music fans are concerned about climate change and expect the music industry to do more. Gen Z — the most coveted demo — is legitimately worried about its future. For them, culture, politics, social justice and consumer spending are all linked. When it comes to climate change, they all insist that we do more.
Climate Control Projects recently worked on Billie Eilish’s overheated climate summit at the O2. It was an inspiring example of an artist using her platform to create an impact both with her audience and within the industry as a whole. We’ve collaborated with Support + Feed, Rverb, Wasserman, Live Nation, AEG, EarthPercent, Julie’s Bicycle, Music Declares Emergency, A Greener Festival, and more. Overheated was a success because Billie, Finneas and their family had a vision fully supported by their team (and they’re not the only ones).
It’s that simple.
The climate crisis will not be solved by individual efforts, but rather by coalitions of individuals working collaboratively towards systemic solutions. The same can be said for the future of the music industry. In an era of disrupted supply chains, rising energy prices, heat waves, wildfires and pandemics that pose an existential threat to touring and manufacturing, the only way to resolve these challenges is to work together.
Climate Control Projects recently announced the Big Climate Thing, a three-day concert at Forest Hills Stadium September 16-18 featuring Haim, the Roots, Sheryl Crow, Khruangbin, Gary Clark Jr., Courtney Barnett, the Flaming Lips and Princess Nokia , among others. Alongside this, we’re also launching BigUp, a mobile app for artists and music fans that connects them to lifestyle choices, climate action and local communities. Both of these projects have been in the works for years and backed by extensive research and coalition building within the climate movement and the music industry. Universally, we’ve learned that fans and artists want to support each other in their climate efforts, but don’t have consistent safe spaces to do so. We will change that together.
It’s hard for artists to speak out about the climate when they risk being challenged because the negative impacts of touring are so high. There are incredible efforts within the industry to address these impacts, but there is also a need for accelerated scale and timelines. Climate Control Projects – likely to be called in for our own three-day event – has created the Big Climate Lab, a multi-year research and development effort to accelerate the transition to lower emissions and reduce waste while maximizing profits. We call on all of our colleagues, regardless of company or country, to join us in this open source effort.
I’m neither a climate change expert nor the most powerful person in music, but we all have a part to play. We know that climate change is a threat to the planet, and I firmly believe that it is also the the biggest threat to our industry. The actions we take now to address it systemically will determine the viability of our future.
If we wait to see what happens, it will already be too late. We need to work together proactively and agnostically to catalyze change and share our knowledge and our platforms. If we do, we’ll create an industry like few others: leading by example, powered by creativity, and working to create a better world for the next generation.