In the faddish world of the music industry, green is the new black.
Rock stars from John Lennon to Bono have always been outspoken activists for social change, but rockers' renewed interest in environmental causes -- to be highlighted July 7 at the Live Earth global concert series -- is leading to important changes in their own industry.
"The most important thing that Live Earth is doing is setting out to create a green event standard for the entire live entertainment industry," said spokesperson Matthew diGirolamo.
Summer tour season, including the nine massive concerts that are part of Live Earth, can generate huge environmental impacts. Between tour buses criss-crossing the country, fans driving to and from shows, and the electricity used on stage, musicians contribute their fair share to global carbon output every year.
CD manufacturing and shipment also generate trash and pollution, though these effects could diminish as online sales numbers grow and physical CD sales drop.
Forward-thinking musicians and nonprofits are reforming industry practices on both the production and performance ends. They're finding that the more artists adopt these practices, the easier it becomes for other musicians to join them. With all the cachet that comes with a "green" stamp of approval, bands, festivals and labels are racing to position themselves as environmentally conscious.
The most visible display of industry action and innovation will be the massive Live Earth concert. It is organized by former Vice President Al Gore, in partnership with Kevin Wall, who organized the Live 8 anti-poverty concerts in 2005.
The Live Earth show involves nine concerts and 150 bands -- as well as a webcast from a band of British scientists in Antarctica.
The Live Earth team worked from the beginning to "design out" waste and excess energy consumption, diGirolamo said, with carbon offsets as a last resort. Live Earth has secured "green" power for its shows, and concert lighting will come from efficient LED systems. DaimlerChrysler has also supplied Live Earth with a fleet of its superlow emission BluTec cars, which are not yet available to the public.
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To reduce transportation impacts, Live Earth has also arranged its concerts in cities with efficient mass transit systems, such as London and Sydney, and fans at the American show at Giants Stadium will be encouraged to carpool, which would be necessary anyway because the stadium has limited parking.
By employing so many different tactics for energy and waste reduction, Live Earth's team hopes to inspire a "friendly spirit of competition" in the industry, according to diGirolamo, who would like to "see the bar reset" July 7.
Even before Live Earth was announced, movers and shakers in the industry had already started greening up their concert schedules. For regular touring bands that have shows several times a week, there isn't much time to coordinate a massive green effort the way Live Earth did for its bands.