All upside

Having explained Pilot 2’s rationale, methodology and procedure, this article lays out the many participation pluses for stakeholders in the live music business.

Like all businesses, live music has been revolutionised by The Internet, but staging live gigs remains a hard way to make a living. See Through Carbon’s music industry experts understand that when it’s a struggle just to keep your head above water, reaching for an unfamiliar lifeline, even if it costs you nothing, requires a good reason.

So this article offers 5 good reasons.

For venues, bands, promoters, agents, ticketing businesses, coach companies or other stakeholders in the live music industry, the advantages of Pilot 2 participation fall into these categories:

  • Preparedness
  • Data
  • Commerce
  • Reputation
  • Environment

Competitive advantage: get ahead of the game

Since the first COP in Berlin in 1995, our leaders have issued annual statements on our increasing existential urgency to reduce carbon emissions. When the haggling is over, each COP closes different reporting loopholes. See Through News has written extensively on the gap between politicians words and actions on climate change, but when it comes to carbon accounting, this has been the process to date:

  1. Fine words: governments honk lofty, but non-binding promises, to reduce carbon’.
  2. Measurement: the notion of requiring a common metric (gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent reduced or sequestered, CO2e’ for short) is introduced, to measure, verify and track any lofty commitment.
  3. Obvious stuff: for a while, businesses and other reporting organisations could get away with just estimating their own direct emissions (‘Scope 1’).
  4. The net widens: soon they were also required to report indirect emissions from the utilities they consumed, mainly energy (‘Scope 2’).
  5. The Full Monty: eventually, entities were required to report their entire carbon footprint, i.e. everything else (‘Scope 3’).
  6. Downstream percolation: these requirements for accurate, verifiable, audited carbon reporting have trickled down from national level, to multinationals, big businesses, and are now reaching Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs, usually defined as having fewer than 250 employees).

As the climate crisis has worsened (we’re currently up to COP29 and counting), regulatory requirements on carbon reduction have become more stringent, and penetrated further down the supply chain.

For live music venues and bands, the bad news is that, along with everyone else, more regulation is on the way. However beleaguered you already feel with financial audits or health and safety rules, carbon reporting will very soon be added to your list of legal obligations. If accurate, verified reporting of your entire carbon footprint, including Scope 3, hasn’t already arrived on your desk, it’s only a matter of time before it does.

The good news is that this reporting could cost you nothing, if you use See Through Carbon. The better news is that See Through Carbon will not only accurately calculate your carbon footprint for free, it will also also provide a list of carbon-reducing solutions for free.

Best of all, measuring the carbon footprints of live music gigs in a comprehensive, rigourous way for the first time may even reveal new ways to both recuce carbon and make money (see below).

Pilot 2 is a chance for venues, band and promoters to get ahead of the game and be a step ahead of the competition. Early See Through CarbonSee Through Carbon adopters will be prepared when the new carbon reporting requirements arrive in the letterbox.

  • When (it’s not a matter of if’) the carbon inspectors come knocking, and ask you for your baseline and current carbon footprints, you’ll have both ready.
  • When they add a CRP to the list of funding tender requirements, not only will you know it means Carbon Reduction Report, you’ll have one ready.
  • If you’re been with Pilot 2 long enough, and have had time to not only to receive the carbon-busting List of Solutions provided by our expert consultants, but also to have implemented some of them, you can verifiably prove you’re not just aware of your emissions, but proactively reducing them.

The rules are changing . Carbon reporting may still be primitive compared to financial reporting, but is on a path to demanding the same rigour, level of detail an evidence. For a long time, companies have been able to apply very broad rules of thumb to calculate their emissions, much like small businesses being allowed to apply a blanket value to calculate their VAT, just to save hassle.

Not any more. New carbon auditing requirements are coming, will be here to stay, and are unlikely to be reversed in the lifetimes of our grandchildren, because:

  • Accounting logic: For any upstream businesses, part of your carbon footprint’s Scope 3 is made up of part of your downstream supply chain’s Scope 1&2 footprints. There are 15 technical Scope 3 subcategories, from the embedded energy in raw materials when they arrive at the factory gate Cat. 1: Purchased Goods & Services’) to how capital is invested (Category 15 :’Investments’), but the best way to think of Scope 3 is everything that wouldn’t have been emitted if you hadn’t done what you do’.
  • Scale: SMEs produce more global business emissions than big businesses, maybe by 70/30%. Scope 3 can be the biggest single contributor to many entities’ carbon footprints.
  • Accuracy: Government regulations are getting tougher. Businesses used to be able to use very broad estimates, loosely applied, based on poor and incomplete data. Businesses now have to provide evidence, with a verifiable audit trail. In money terms, businesses have so far got away with providing a self-reported estimate of how much they owe; now they have to provide receipts detailing their exact liabilities.

In short, See Through Carbon Pilot 2 participants will, unlike all their competition, be ready when the carbon inspectors come knocking.

And both carbon footprint and reduction plan will cost you…nothing.

Delicious data: earn the new currency

Anyone operating in the digital economy knows that being competitive these days requires dealing not only in dollars, euros and pounds, but in the new currency – data.

Social media, ticket sales platforms, accounting software and other services provide this new currency, denominated in eyeballs, clicks, likes, demographic profiles, merchandise click-throughs etc.. For the live music industry, even buskers using mobile credit card readers can track their income sources and adapt accordingly. No one can expect to survive in the music business without data, and the greater volume of high quality data you have, the better your chances of surviving and thriving.

The power of data lies in spotting interconnected patterns of behaviour that are invisible to even the most experienced human eye.

Now that nearly all ticket, bar and merchandise purchases are made with credit cards, bands, venues and promoters are already well versed in analysing the digital trails these transactions leave, in order to spot opportunities to sell more tickets, drinks and T‑shirts.

Byadding just one additional data column to this existing spreadsheet – the audience’s mode of transport, Pilot 2 is opening up new vistas. By aggregating this information, in combination with anonymised data to correlate Pilot 2’s transport survey results with ticket sale billing addresses, bar and merchandise sales, and making it publicly available, See Through Carbon is creating a unique, methodologically sound, comprehensive dataset, to benefit all parties.

See Through Carbon’s only outcome metric is carbon reduction, measured in tonnes of CO2e, but this doesn’t mean venues, band, promoters and other stakeholders can’t also use Pilot 2’s open source database to make more money.

Indeed, the Pilot 2 database is designed to do precisely that…

Commercial gain: make more money

Current research on live music’s carbon footprints is sporadic and thin, but clear enough for us to know that by far the biggest single source of live music emissions is audience transport. Most estimates put it at around 80%.

In other words, how audiences get to and from gigs is, from a carbon accounting perspective, clearly the most significant element of any live music event’s carbon liability, for when whoever is staging the gig is responsible.

It could also be a huge opportunity.

It’s understandable why any struggling venue or band might baulk at the mention the word liability’ or responsibility’, and immediately reel off a long list of reasons for inaction.

Such responses mean missing new sources of revenue (which happen to also reduce carbon) revealed by the accurate measurement of high quality data. Suggest offering fan transport when selling tickets without this evidence, and typical responses include:

  • No one can afford it.
  • Even if they can afford it, no one wants it.
  • Even if they say they want it, no one will use it.
  • Even if they use it, it’s too much hassle.
  • Even if we could be bothered, no one cares enough about carbon emissions.
  • Even if everyone cared, no one would benefit.
  • Even if someone benefitted, no one would want to take responsibility.

But why?

These are all assertions, made without evidence. No data exists to answer these assertions in a methodologically sound, structured, systematic way, incorporating multiple variables. Until now.

Among other things, Pilot 2 is designed to collect evidence that will provide a rational basis to prove or disprove these assumptions. If it’s sometimes worth providing fan transport and sometimes not, Pilot 2 data will provide an evidence-based, nuanced spectrum of data to calculate when the answer is yes, and to what degree.

Without such a dataset, the status quo will remain:

  • If no one’s ever tried providing fan transport, they can’t know.
  • If no one tries it, no one can ever know.
  • Without solid evidence, no one has yet tried.

But…

  • With Pilot 2, See Through Carbon will make solid evidence publicly available.

For example, once the data becomes clear, venues, bands, promoters and local councils have a sound basis on which to implement trials of providing pooled transport in the form of coaches or buses.

To know for sure, you need to comparing the bar receipts and merchandise sales from baseline’ gigs where everyone drives, versus transport provided’ gigs, where more people take coaches. This may prove that in certain circumstances venues, bands and promoters make more money by providing transport than if they don’t – and reduce carbon too.

We already know that no stakeholder will risk doing this without evidence, because no one yet has provided fan transport for their gigs, whether for profit, at cost, subsidised, or free.

Unconvinced? Consider this scenario:

  • You live in Aberdeen.
  • Your 17-year-old daughter is a huge Ariana Grande fan.
  • She’s at your shoulder as the moment when tickets are released for Ariana’s World Tour date at Wembley.
  • At the stroke of midnight, you try to book tickets on your laptop, ipad and mobile, to maximise your odds.
  • By a miracle, you manage to book 2 x £100 tickets.
  • Your heart sinks as you calculate the extras: petrol for the 800 mile round trip: another £250, overnight hotel and meals: £200, London parking: £50 = an extra £500.
  • You don’t even like Ariana Grande, hate motorway driving, hate London, and have invited friends to dinner that weekend.
  • When your daughter and her best friend, and fellow Arianator,went on the school trip to London, you and your partner were perfectly happy to entrust a licensed coach to take them there and back.

Now imagine that when you book your ticket, you’re offered coach travel from central Aberdeen to Wembley and back: £50’.

Deal, or no deal?

And when your daughter asks you to buy them £100-worth of Ariana merchandise, are you more, or less, inclined to say yes?

Now see it from Ariana Grande’s perspective.

  • By 5 past midnight, all 90,000 Wembley tickets are sold.
  • You instantly know from the credit card billing addresses that 300 of them are coming from Aberdeen.
  • 300 fans = 6 x 50-seat coaches.
  • You’ve partnered with a coach company that’s agreed to provide transport at a fixed cost.
  • With every coach ticket sold, you make money, the coach provide makes money, your merch sales go up, the venue’s Food & Beverage per capita sales go up.
  • Every coach reduces your carbon footprint by the emissions of 25 cars minus the emission of 1 coach.
  • And you can prove it.

Reputational reward: prove you mean it

Reputational Gain can of course turn into Commercial Gain, in the form of greater fan approbation, and greater tickets and merchandise sales, but is significant even on its own merits.

Pilot 2 participants can legitimately advertise themselves as low carbon’ activists who take carbon reduction seriously,. They can point to bands who still advertise their marginal Scope 1 & 2 reductions as virtue-signalling badges of their sincerity in saving the planet’, and explain why such claims are greenwash.

Pilot 2 bands can not only educate their own fans that meaningful carbon reduction comes from Scope 3, they also demonstrate their sincerity by displaying See Through Carbon data visualisations, detailing evidence of their carbon footprints, and reduction track record, on their websites.

Music stars’ high profile, and the importance their fan base is likely to place on sincere efforts to take carbon reduction seriously, makes these reputational gains particularly effectively in spreading and promoting the notion of accurate carbon measurement, and its benefits. Pop stars will earn a greater reputational gain than, say, car part manufacturers. Where pop stars lead, car part manufacturer fans may follow.

Even climate-denying bands may find providing free buses for their fans not only more than pays for increased bar splits and merchandise sales, but means they fill bigger venues and sell more recorded music.

They benefit, the venues when they play benefit, their promoters and record label benefit. Win win win.

Environmental merit: measurably reduce carbon

In its public-facing projects, See Through’s strategy is to mentions the C‑word’ as little, and as late, as possible, ideally not at all.

For better or worse – and when it comes to the environment, it’s definitely worse – whenever Money and Carbon are presented in competition, the former trumps the latter.

That’s why See Through is careful not to frame its carbon-reducing projects in opposition to money, or as a sacrifice, but as a positive. Engineering win-win scenarios that don’t require people to choose between reducing carbon and making less money is a faster, and more friction-free, path to a sustainable future.

Hence, even though carbon reduction is See Through Carbon’s raison d’être, we’re only mentioning the environmental advantages last, as an addendum.

We know, however, that increasing numbers of people in all walks of life, at every level of every organisation, do care about the impact our addiction to fossil fuel is having on our civilisation. Like the global experts behind See Through Carbon, they too want to take action to do something about it themselves.

We’re all more sensitised to greenwash. When we talk about climate change to our shareholders, employees, colleagues, children or grandchildren, we don’t like hearing ourselves make feeble excuses for inaction. We want to be able to tell a story of positive, practical action, not to shrug our shoulders, or hear ourselves justifying offsetting’ schemes that involve paying distant, poor people a small amount of money to justify carrying on business as usual.

We also also know how close despair always is, how easy it is to feel overwhelmed, powerless to do anything practical to reverse our self-inflicted harm, and to feel that nothing you do makes any difference.

See Through Carbon has been created by a global network of people with a passion for faciliating immediate carbon reduction, all working pro bono to find practical ways to bring us closer to a sustainable future.

By participating in Pilot 2 for UK Live Music’, you’ll be joining this network.