In 2011, We Love Green landed in the game of festivals in France with the look of a small ray of sunshine trying to cross a big cloud of fries and plastic cups. Assuming its role as a laboratory between renewable energies, local gastronomy and awareness-raising conferences, the festival, thanks to strong media coverage, has gradually spread its ideas and its modus operandi among its fellows. Ten years later, the Ecocup is no longer enough and almost all parts of the ecosystem are moving towards a greener scene.
In June 2020, when France was just recovering from the first confinement, it was the dj Simo Cell who throws the first cobblestone into the pond with a grandstand in Releasein which he recounts his questioning: “In 2019 alone, I traveled 5 continents and did 65 dates, including 47 abroad and 18 in France. I made 33 round trips by plane, 30 by train and 2 by car. […] When I look back on all of this, I feel like it makes absolutely no sense.”
With this text, the producer signed to Livity Sound has lifted a kind of taboo from the industry. Because while it is politically correct to show a desire to reduce waste, water consumption or to offer local food and alcohol, it is more complicated to tackle the pollution caused by movement of artists. In recent years, it was not uncommon to see the most sought-after DJs chaining planes to perform two or three gigs in less than 24 hours, or making an express round trip to the other side of the world for a date.
“When we bring in a foreign artist, rather than having him waste plane trips, we will wonder how to keep him on the territory for several days and pool bookings from one region to another.
It is these practices that are being tackled by Circuits Courts, a think tank launched by La Sphère électronique and The Festival Collective, which reminds us that, in the organization of an event, it is the transport sector which is, by far, the most polluting. The initiative, which brings together players such as Astropolis, Bordeaux Open Air, Cabaret Aléatoire, Château Perché and Family Piknik, aims “to pool the programming of international artists”, and thus reduce the impact of rounds. It would be a matter of setting up a common fee, sharing costs and developing activities other than the sole dj set. “When we bring in a foreign artist, rather than having him waste air travel, we will wonder how to keep him on the territory for several days and pool bookings from one region to another”details Kevin Ringeval, founder of the Electronic Sphere and at the initiative of Circuits Courts, who wants to “get out of greenwashing, as it has been for a long time, and put in place real solutions”.
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After a year and a half at a standstill, the industry seems ready to rock. The awakening of consciences is in the air of time in the electronic scene these last months. Movement Music Declares Emergencyborn in the United Kingdom in 2019, arrived in France and brings together professionals (including Rone, Fakear, Louisahhh or Manu le Malin) who “recognize the environmental impact of practices in the music industry” and are committed to reducing it. Several protagonists of the French scene have also distinguished themselves recently by their commitment, such as the dj Roni, who works to manufacture less polluting vinyl for his label Nezha Records, while the label Yotanka Records (Octave Noire or Yan Wagner) has published his ten commitments in favor of the ecological transition. Signed with the Bi:Pole agency for four years, the dj Manar Fegro aka Glitter, has seen a lot of mess in the riders – and not just because she’s allergic to gluten. She believes that artists have an important role to play in raising awareness in the sector by “communicating more about their commitment, so that it pushes the public and the promoters”.
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It remains to be seen what will come out of it. Because behind this story of short circuits is taking shape a real revolution in the state of mind of the actors of the scene. How can the programmers of major festivals be made to agree to give up the famous booking exclusivities for which they fight with big checks before each summer? How to pool bookings between places or events that compete with each other? Or have clubs and festivals adopt local line-ups, share international stars with them? We are in fact talking about rationalizing an industry known for its excesses and which was, before the Covid, in a speculative bubble on the amounts of the stamps – driving up the price of places by the same amount.
“At some point, it’s a commitment, it’s more relevant to work smart than to chain dates to make money. Glitter, artist
“We go from afarrecognizes Kevin Ringeval. It’s a whole mentality to change. Will rival festivals want to work together? I think everyone needs to sit around the table and change the prism. When we organize an event, we always want to be the only one to have the artist perform. You can have the artist on your territory, but preventing him from playing in other regions is almost absurd today.”
But rather than acting at the exit of the pipe, at the level of the festivals, wouldn’t it be more effective to sensitize those who fill the pipes, the booking agencies? This is the reflection led by the Parisian producer Anetha, which led to the creation of the agency Mama Loves Ya. Among ten commitments, its artists promise to always favor the train over the plane, to sell eco-responsible merchandising or to reduce transport between the hotel and the room where they will play as much as possible (and therefore not to require a 5 stars at the other end of town like some).
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Invent a new model
Artists without excessive demands, and ready to make some concessions for the common good, in short. Is it doable? Kevin Ringeval believes in it. “It is said that artists are becoming aware, but they had been aware for a long time. Those who have lost this awareness are rather their booking agencies. They are sellers, and they tend to burn out their artists sometimes. There have been several cases of depression dj from traveling all the time. At some point, you have to get out of this logic. Artists will not be unhappy with perhaps a little less touring, staying longer in one place, having time to visit. And why not be used differently than for the stage? One dj travels to play but he can do other things, collaborate with a label or another artist, do masterclasses… All of this means thinking about a new club model. Shouldn’t clubs become multi-purpose places, with broadcasting but also rehearsal and creation studios, offering residences?
“An organization that offers a lower fee but more benevolence to artists and the environment is necessarily preferred. But for sure, there is still plenty of room to do better.”
“I hate one shots on foreign territories”confirms Glitter. “It’s exhausting, even if it means moving around, you might as well find one or two dates around, even if it means waiting if it’s a club.” For her, booking agencies also have a role to play: “At one point, it’s a commitment, it’s more relevant to work intelligently than to chain dates to make money. But in the end, it has to come from the artist. He has the choice to accept or decline each offer.
An offer modeled upstream by booking agencies, increasingly aware of their part in playing on the environmental impact of their artists: “We have published the charter RIDING.e in favor of inclusive and environmental best practicesconfirms Cyril Tomas-Cimmino, boss of the Bi:Pole agency based in Marseille. Each artistic team approves it and attaches it to its hospitality rider. To confirm a date, the organization must sign and commit to it.” In this charter, the train is privileged, the supplies (food, techniques, etc.) must come from short and independent circuits. “In addition, for three years on our tours, single-use plastic is prohibited, as are tourbuses for fewer than 12 passengers. Every day we have to choose between several bookings on the same date. An organization that offers a lower fee but more benevolence to artists and the environment is necessarily preferred. But for sure, there is still plenty of room to do better.”
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Giving more meaning to DJing is what the Clubs Cultures collective is working on, which since last February has brought together around forty French clubs, which aim to get out of discotheque status to become “Festive cultural places” and “establishments open to the public, night or day”. If the project does not have an ecological vocation, it is part of this change of mindset underway in the electronic music industry, not always inclined in the past to stick together between different tribes. The example of Gorillaz or Massive Attack also shows that starification is not insurmountable, even if there is still a long way to go before regulating an economy based on mass travel. “Of course, we will need strong public power to avoid the humanitarian and ecological disaster that is looming”explained Simo Cell in Release. “But, for that, it is first of all up to us to mobilize, on an individual scale and in a collective dynamic.”
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