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Music and Sustainability at Berklee and Beyond

05/06/2024

Music and Sustainability at Berklee and Beyond Integrating sustainability practices into music not only helps address environmental concerns but also contributes to job creation and security.

By

Tyler Kinnear

June 4, 2024

Peter Gabriels Real World Studios in Wiltshire, England, where Wadhams Production Scholar Fisher Thompson BM 23 visited on a Berklee trip in 2023.

Image by Fisher Thompson BM 23

This article was written by Tyler Kinnear, assistant director of career engagement and programs at the Berklee Career Center. Kinnear is cocurator of Resounding Change: Sonic Art and the Environment, an award-winning arts exhibition exploring sound in a time of environmental crisis.

If you spend time with musicians, at some point you'll hear the word sustain. In music, it refers to strategically held notes-in a guitar solo, for example. It can also refer to the ability to sustain a career, especially as a freelance musician. Here at the Berklee Career Center, we are biased towards this notion. Our mission is clear: preparing students for purposeful, successful, sustainable careers. A sustainable career is traditionally defined as one that brings meaning to one's life, utilizes one's skills and experience, and fosters both professional and personal growth. However, amid the current climate crisis, it carries environmental connotations.

Music, as a powerful medium for storytelling, can forge emotional connections to the planet, but it comes with challenges in areas like artist/fan travel, consumer products, and energy management. The immediate effects of climate change on the music industry, such as event postponement due to extreme weather and increased insurance costs, underscores the urgency of the climate crisis. Within these challenges lie many new opportunities to develop existing roles and to design new ones. Integrating sustainability practices into music not only helps address environmental concerns but also contributes to job creation and security.

Our commitment to career education is pivotal in shaping a new era for the music industry, where sustainability is no longer an afterthought but an integral aspect of the industry.

- Tyler Kinnear, Berklee Career Center

In response to environmental concerns-and also fan demands-vendors are adopting reuse practices and calibrating the long-term cost-effectiveness that comes with reuse. Major companies in the music industry, such as Anschutz Entertainment Group and Live Nation, are actively hiring sustainability-focused staff, reflecting a growing demand for professionals in the field. Moreover, record labels are forming environmental, social, and governance (ESG) teams, and professional organizations such as the Audio Engineering Society are discussing best practices for greening audio products.

A Global Green EffortYet, as Amy Morrison, cofounder and president of the Music Sustainability Alliance (MSA), explains, the international landscape reveals a more cohesive approach to sustainability in the music industry, with federations of music industry associations like LIVE Green in the UK leading the way. In contrast, the USA is somewhat more fragmented, lacking collaborative efforts and impactful groups working together. The absence of robust regulations contributes to this fragmentation, making it imperative to address sustainability issues collaboratively.

The MSA recently marked a significant milestone in addressing this through its inaugural Music Sustainability Summit in Los Angeles earlier this year. The summit brought together key industry players, from music agents and record label executives to trucking companies and catering services. It highlighted the potential for collaboration in fostering sustainable practices, emphasizing the importance of pre-competitive collaboration and the need to focus on creating a networked (instead of fragmented) green association for music business in the United States.

Additionally, the MSA recently established three working groups to address environmental challenges in the music industry. These groups are: Reporting, Metrics, and Standardization, which the author has joined; Renewable Energy and Power Solutions; and Waste Management and Circular Economy. Group members represent diverse areas, from major music festivals such as Ultra to conglomerates such as Warner Music Group, and city governance, exemplified by the City of Miami Beach. These groups aim to further sustainability in the industry through research, collaboration, and innovation.

Sustainability on CampusAt Berklee, collaboration is central to driving sustainability initiatives. The Berklee Sustainability Coalition, led by cochairs Cathy Horn, Wayne Wild, and Sofia Villarreal, serves as a grassroots platform for driving positive change on campus. The coalition engages in practical initiatives such as waste diversion events and recycling campaigns, distributes educational information on personal best practices, and supports Berklee performances concerning climate and sustainability.

The Movement performs at Franklin Park Zoo in 2023

Sustainability efforts on campus extend to many other areas on campus. These include curriculum integration (e.g., Linda Chase's Introduction to Ecomusicology course); Berklee's annual Earth Day celebration, Earthapalooza, featuring original environment-themed music by student bands and guest speakers; the Movement's student-led community engagement initiatives, such as their semesterly performance at the Franklin Park Zoo; and BoCo Green, a Boston Conservatory at Berklee waste-reduction initiative.

Sofia Villarreal, a seventh-semester double major in performance (bass) and electronic production and design, stands at the forefront of student-led sustainability initiatives. Villarreal's journey reflects a deep commitment to creating positive change. In response
LINK: https://www.berklee.edu/berklee-now/news/music-and-sustainability-at-b...
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