Welcome to ‘Sound Country’, Green Music Australia’s roadmap to making the music business more sustainable

Music is one of the best things invented by humanity. It’s a fact.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the music industry. From recording songs to touring or selling band merchandise, there are way too many areas where the business (sometimes unwillingly or unconsciously) contributes to air pollution, excessive use of fossil fuels or waste generation.

Fortunately, more and more musicians and organisations operating in the music realm are becoming alarmed by the industry’s harmful impact on the environment. Green Music Australia’s ‘Sound Country’ is an excellent project aimed at raising awareness of the most pressing issues and presenting practical solutions to solve them.

PART 117 OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE / THE SILLY & GREEN PROJECT

What does Green Music Australia have to do with it?

Despite the challenges the global music business faces in the 21st century, Australia is lucky to have an organisation like Green Music Australia. This forward-thinking charity harnesses the cultural power and influence of the local music scene to create a more sustainable future for the industry.

They run several campaigns, many times tied with international movements, such as No Music On A Dead Planet, #BYOBottle or Party with the Planet. Australian artists like Midnight Oil, Montaigne, and The Avalanches are among the most recognisable activists and supporters, using their voices (metaphorically and literally) to educate people on the “green issues”.

Green Music Australia also provides useful resources, eye-opening research and interesting case studies to inspire the industry’s participants to make more sustainable choices in their everyday operations.

What is Sound Country?

Sound Country: A Green Artist Guide‘ is the newest initiative launched in mid-July 2022 in conjunction with Creative Victoria. Some experts who provided valuable input to this complex project include Rhoda Roberts AO (Head of Indigenous Programming at the Sydney Opera House), musician Missy Higgins, the Regurgitator band, environmental consultant Matt Wicking and Green Music CEO Berish Bilander.

The guide is a comprehensive tool for touring musicians. It will provide them with a practical framework to implement sustainable solutions across all aspects of their business (i.e. from local pub acts to stadium rock tours) and at different stages of their careers (when they’re independent local artists to working with international teams).

At the recent initiative launch in Melbourne, the Minister for Creative Industries, Steve Dimopoulos, was present to speak to the crowd about it.

He said, “Reducing the environmental impact of the creative industries is one of the underlying principles of our Creative State 2025 strategy. We all have a role to play in protecting our future and ‘Sound Country’ is a fantastic, practical resource to help our music industry do just that. I applaud Green Music Australia and encourage Victorian artists to get on board.” 

How does it work?

The practicality of the guide is one of its main advantages. Artists are invited to explore the roadmap according to their individual needs and capabilities.

‘Sound Country’ is an interactive website with online shareable PDF, infographic, social media content and an engaging poster.

Melbourne illustrator and printmaker, Steph Hughes, has created the eye-catching imagery accompanying the resource. That includes a birds-eye-view festival graphic encompassing the sustainable themes presented in the roadmap, as well as smaller clickable drawings.

Clicking on a particular element opens an area where sustainable steps can be implemented, with detailed information on how to achieve them.

Content has been grouped into six key areas:

  1. First Nations First,
  2. waste reduction,
  3. low-carbon transport,
  4. sustainable food,
  5. ethical merchandise and
  6. climate advocacy.

Each area includes case studies, the latest scientific evidence, and a comprehensive solutions section, with simple strategies and advice on how to implement eco-friendly practices.

For example, in the “Switch to Renewables” segment, at the most basic level, information on and direct links to green electricity companies are provided. However, the environmentally-friendly suggestions go way beyond that.

There are tips on how to make printing and food on tour more sustainable. Musos can also find out how to green their space and waste.

Other areas for improvement include making music releases greener or dedicating a portion of concert ticket sales to external projects that either offset or invest in sustainable, community initiatives.

There are also many other ways musicians can get involved in the campaign. Volunteering their time or unique skills to help grow the initiative’s impact, raising money with a tour or gig or giving directly to Green Music Australia are the most feasible ones.

Emphasis is also placed on the mindful use of the internet (hello, social media) and digital technology (looking at you, NFTs). Spreading the message in musos’ immediate circles: fans, bandmates, industry partners and suppliers is strongly encouraged.

After all, musicians are the original influencers. Historically speaking, their voice has always counted in spearheading positive change.

What does the industry think about it?

‘Sound Country’ was built on a decade of thinking, research, and advocacy, with a significant contribution from those who live and breathe it.

“For thousands of generations, the music of this continent was connected to Country, in spirit and action. We’re here to support musicians to reconnect, realign and reinspire that ancient and still-breathing purpose”, states the website.

Most musicians who have shared their experiences or contributed to the project tour internationally. So they are well aware of the consequences of travelling with all the equipment and frequent location changes.

Renowned songwriter David Bridie stated, “We musicians have a pretty ordinary carbon footprint. Flights, PAs, lighting and electronic gear, and so forth. I genuinely endorse the ‘Sound Country: A Green Artist Guide’ as a clear outline by which musicians can learn more about putting into practice clear ways of looking after the planet – substantially reducing our carbon footprint and being aware of the necessary steps we all need to wake up to. This is a wonderful initiative.”

So let’s hope that this exceptional project will provide much-needed direction for a greener Australian music industry indeed. The near future will tell if local artists have fully embraced its guidelines.

Cover image: Green Music Australia on Twitter


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