Kurt Langer is CEO at 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 a founder of Scratch, an international hip-hop tour, film studio, and merchandise company. He also has produced three feature films, most recently about climate change, and is on the U.S. board of trustees 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 the process not only create a windfall of new business opportunities but ensure the longevity of our industry. Most importantly, it will also help address the climate emergency in profound ways.
Decadence is synonymous with the music industry — the private planes, island getaways, and vast single-use wardrobes. It’s part of the fantasy that we created for our audience. Now there’s an opportunity to leverage this power of influence to course-correct on climate, while still growing our bottom line. If our own sense of self-preservation doesn’t ask this of us, then we need only look to the audiences and artists who are calling for 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 — are legitimately worried about their futures. For them, culture, politics, social justice, and consumer spending are all intertwined. When it comes to climate change, they’re universally insisting 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 impact both with her audience and within the industry as a whole. We 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 that was fully supported by their team (and they’re hardly the only ones).
It’s as simple as that.
The climate crisis won’t be solved by single individual efforts, but rather by coalitions of individuals working collaboratively toward systemic solutions. The very same can be said about the future of the music industry. In an age of disrupted supply chains, rising energy prices, heatwaves, wildfires, and pandemics that serve as an existential threat to touring and manufacturing, the only way to solve these challenges is to work together.
Climate Control Projects recently announced the Big Climate Thing, a three-day concert at Forest Hills Stadium from Sept. 16 through 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 both artists and music fans that connects them to lifestyle choices, climate actions, and local communities. Both of these projects are years in the making, and backed by exhaustive research and coalition-building within the climate movement and music industry. Universally, we’ve learned that fans and artists want to support one another’s efforts on climate, but don’t have consistent safe spaces to do so. We will change that together.
It’s hard for artists to speak out on climate when the risk of being called out because the harmful impacts of touring are so high. There are incredible efforts within the industry to address these impacts, but there’s also a need for accelerated scale and timeline. Climate Control Projects – at risk of being called out for our own three-day event – has created the Big Climate Lab, a multi-year research-and-development effort to expedite the transition to lower emissions and reduce waste while still maximizing profits. We call on all of our colleagues, regardless of company or country, to join us in this open-source effort.
I am neither an expert on climate change nor the most powerful person in music — but we all have a part to play. We know climate change is a threat to the planet, and I strongly believe it’s also 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 must proactively work together agnostically to catalyze change and share our knowledge and platforms. If we do this, we will create an industry like few others: leading by example, powered by creativity, and working to make a better world for the next generation.