In any profession, with the good comes the bad. While music has the potential to be inspirational, even life-changing in some circumstances, part of what goes along with one’s artistic professionalization is an emphasis on touring (which involves travelling great distances in gas-guzzling vans) and shifting units (ie: the selling of mass manufactured non-biodegradable materials that may or may not end up in the trash).
From an environmental perspective, it’s pretty easy to see how neither of these practices are sustainable nor eco-friendly.
But, it’s NOT exactly like we can give them up either, if we are intent on making it in this business. So, in the spirit of going green, though I can’t provide you with any definitive way to eradicate these “necessary evils”, below I’ve compiled a list of suggestions, from eco-aware artists, on how you, as an aspiring rocker, can reduce your own footprint on this great planet we call home. Starting with the most obvious…
1) Go Strictly Digital
Though still being affected by illegal P2P programs like Limewire, legitimate online sales, are growing slowly, but surely, and industry experts predict that the cd, as a media format, will likely go the way of the cassette, eight-track, and so many of its earlier predecessors. So why not get yourself out of the manufacturing game now? You’ll save yourself the unnecessary hassle of trying to shift physical product in a time where retail is open less and less to indie artists, not to mention you’ll cut down expenses enormously. Plus which, there are the trees, whose lives will be spared, to think about as well.
2) Say Yes to Recycled Materials & Green Technology
If you are really still set on having a physical product for consumption, there’s no need to despair - more and more companies, including St. Thomas’ Second Records and Toronto’s Indiepool, are going green with their manufacturing technology. Offering disc booklets printed on recycled materials with soy based inks are just the tip of the iceberg. Other companies, primarily in the US, are in the works of revolutionizing their screen printing technology to make it more eco-friendly. There are options out there (though a bit more pricy), you just have to dig a little deeper, but it’s definitely worth it.
3) Paper Press Kits – Make Em a Thing of the Past
In congruence with the previous suggestions, go online with your promotions and publicity – it’s easier, more convenient, and will save you money (not to mention the world!) in the long run. There are great sites like Sonicbids which can help you design flashy online professional portfolios, but really it’s as easy as simply building a press page right on your official website. If again, you really can’t tear yourself away from the hard copy real deal, then use recycled paper, at the very least.
4) Employ Online Media Solicitation
Though the dinosaur model of the music industry is admittedly outdated and in desperate need of a massive overhaul, efforts are being made to stay in tune with the issues of our day. One of these winning solutions is a little known (to indie artists) piece of technology called the Digital Media Delivery System (DMDS for short). To summarize quickly – essentially it’s a digital file transfer system that allows artists to send their high quality music and video files to various media broadcasters without having to deal with messy (and expensive) mail outs. While still in its formative years, its popularity, among broadcasters, is exponentially increasing. I recommend getting on board!
5) Cut Your Carbon
Though some bands, in Europe, have opted to tour entirely by bicycle (no joke), I realize that for you four piece rockers who employ extensive drum-kits and Marshall stacks, clearly this is not an option. While a van, in said situations, is clearly a necessity, there are ways to reduce its harmful emissions. Hardware shops, like Canadian Tire, carry special devices that help improve your vehicle’s mileage, and there’s always the option of using biofuels, if possible. More simply, keeping your tires inflated, and carpooling as often as you can are easy solutions that anyone can do.
6) No More Mapquesting
Every band, at some point in their career, will travel to foreign territories for which they require directions. Though, by no means would I ever suggest simply winging it, instead of wasting all of the paper and ink that goes into printing countless pages of maps and city street routes, one simple investment can be the answer to all your directional problems: that being, a GPS system. Clearly an investment that one will have to save up for, but a good one nonetheless.
7) For the Ladies & the Emo Boys – Go Mineral & Natural
As I said only a few weeks ago, image is everything, and you’ve got to play the part. Accordingly, having a solid stock of makeup, and hairdye (and other hair products) are undoubtedly important for many bands, particularly those of the goth or glam genres. But environment-wise, not to mention heath-wise, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to spend oodles of cash on products that are toxic, and synthetic if you looking for longevity in regards to either of the aforementioned points. Lucky for you, mineral cosmetics and natural hairdyes are becoming more common place on the market. Go look for yourself!
8) Cool Finds for Cheap
Along with the last point, wardrobe is clearly an investment, for any performer, that needs to be taken seriously. While wearing ripped jeans, and flannel shirts worked for the grunge rockers, not every genre has created such a staple in terms of fashion. However, it’s important to realize that looking good means being noticed, and resultingly, most professional artists have signature styles and unique attire that CANNOT be found at just any Old Navy. One of the best ways to find one-of-a-kind pieces, beyond having a personal fashion designer, is to visit vintage and second hand clothing stores. Not only will you get the best bang for your buck, but you can pretty much guarantee you’ll find at least one very out-there piece on every visit.
9) Purchase More Pawn
I often feel sorry for the countless guitars hanging in the windows of pawn shops longing for the day when someone comes in and allows them to wail once again. Though society has allotted terms like “used” and “pawned” with pejorative connotations, I can honestly say that I seen some of the most incredible objects hidden away in the corners of these so-called “hock shops”. Though it may take a bit of extra digging, I truly believe that it is well worth the effort. The first step, however, is to change perceptions about these sorts of stores, and the items they have for sale. Instead of thinking of pawn as someone else’s garbage or attempt to pay off a debt, I prefer to term them, simply, as “pre-loved”.
10) A Charity of Your Choice
When you get to the point at which you have begun to profit with your music sales, nothing demonstrates your appreciation to the public, for your successes, more than donating some of your proceeds to the charity of your choice. There are clearly tons of great eco non-for-profits out there including the WWF. Not only will supporting such agencies help heal the world, it will also be great for your public image, and did I mention that you can claim it on your income taxes as a writeoff? Sounds to me like a win-win situation all around!