Midnight Oil's Peter Garrett is leading the way.
It’s been a wake-up call for touring musicians in recent years, considering the carbon footprint that it leaves. Festivals are increasingly moving to solar-powered stages, use washable plates and utensils over disposable ones, stick to 100% biodiesel in tour trucks and buses, or buy renewable-energy credits to offset energy use from amps, trucking, travel, and hotel stays.
Now, in one of the biggest green initiatives in Australia, comes FEAT. or Future Energy Artists, a company whereby musicians and the music industry (and, eventually, music fans) can invest in financing new and existing solar farms around the country. The investment is facilitated through the green-sympathetic Future Super superannuation fund, which has a target return of over 5 per cent per annum. Artists can choose to reinvest their dividend payments back into the fund, or have them paid to their artist accounts. The first solar farm that FEAT. artists will help build is Brigalow Solar Farm in southwest Queensland, due to be operational in nine months.
“At last a project that takes the great passion many artists have for a healthy world powered by renewable energy and makes it doable. A stunning, much needed initiative,” says Peter Garrett.
Midnight Oil are one of the acts involved in FEAT., along with, alphabetically, Annie Hamilton, Big Scary, Breathe, Cloud Control, Cub Sport, Jack River, Little May, Mansionair, Peking Duk, Regurgitator, Set Mo, The Jezabels, The Rubens, Urthboy, Vallis Alps, Vance Joy and Washington. Companies also involved include Collective Artists, Green Music Australia, Lunatic Entertainment, Mushroom Music Group, St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, Unified Music Group, and Village Sounds.
The idea came from Heidi Lenffer of Cloud Control after she became aware of the impact touring has on the environment. Reaching out to various climate scientists (she googled their names and places of work, and left messages on their landlines; most responded), she worked out that a 15-date two-week Cloud Control tour of Australian theatres and clubs generated 28 tonnes of carbon emissions. That is equivalent to what a household creates during the course of an entire year.
Lenffer said, “The fact is that this was just one small tour in an album cycle which also took us to the US three times … then you think about multiplying this out with a 64billion dollar industry worldwide and you’ve got a serious problem.”
She initially started looking at carbon offsetting, but scientists explained it was akin to cleaning a house by pushing things under the carpet. She approached a number of music venues about putting solar installations on their roofs. The problem, though, was that the venues operate at night, so they needed a battery that was expensive and the return on the investment was minimal.
Of solar farms, she says, “They’re becoming cheaper, and I thought it was the most tangible inspiring outcome that we could have, and produce the change that we need in a potentially imaginative way that speaks to the artists.”