Glasgow is a world-renowned music city, but making music happen isn’t always easy. Staff and skills shortages, post-pandemic public transport recovery, rising energy and catering costs, increased red tape for international touring: these challenges and more exist for those working in music. Meanwhile, the broader economy is shifting, including through an accelerating clean energy transition in the face of climate change.
How do we ensure that Glasgow’s music sector flourishes now and in the future? University of Glasgow researchers want to address this challenge in two ways: (1) identify what our city’s music sector needs to thrive in the future, and design projects to help where possible; (2) investigate what role music and culture can play in a broader just and green transition.
Glasgow earned its UNESCO City of Music status for a vibrant and varied music scene that plays an important role in the city’s cultural identity and economy; it also hosted COP26 and consequently set an ambitious net zero by 2030 target that requires transformational changes for the city. Our project aims to put Glasgow’s UNESCO and COP26 identities into dialogue: although the music sector contributes a relatively small portion of Glasgow’s greenhouse gas emissions, it has a disproportionately large influencing role that makes it ideally placed to communicate and drive these transformational changes. If you would like to get involved in this initiative, find out more and how to join us below.
What can you do to help achieve a just and green transition for the music sector in Glasgow? What can we do to help you? We are keen to work with collaborators of all kinds to develop positive change, so please contact us (see below) if you want to work together. Below are some suggested ways to take action for people coming from a variety of backgrounds. This list is non-exhaustive, so if you don’t see yourself represented here but think there is an important role for you, then please do get in touch.
I’m a musician/performer/band, what can I do?
You may find that your influencing power is your greatest asset. Your own environmental impact is probably relatively small, but you do have the soft power to influence the wider music sector.
- Adopt a ‘Green Rider’ that requests environmentally sustainable actions from venues that host your performances.
- Use your public profile to share with audiences environmentally sustainable behaviours that you are adopting. Here are some initial ideas courtesy of Music Declares Emergency.
- Support environmental groups or platform issues through performances, social media or other methods. Here are some good examples from Billie Eilish, Massive Attack, and Oi Musica.
- Advocate for attention to climate justice issues through musicians’ networks and unions.
I’m a staff member at a music venue or musical organisation, what can I do?
There are actions you can take to make your work more sustainable. It’s important to find which actions are most effective and least onerous (especially for small organisations) and collaboration can be a great way to do this.
Share information with us by taking part in an interview or survey.
- Share information with us by taking part in an interview or survey.
- Adopt environmentally sustainable policies where possible, focusing on areas that are most impactful and/or easiest to achieve. Here’s an example from SWG3.
- Share ideas and resources with other organisations (especially those in different musical genres where you may have less connections) to reduce workload. Use networks like the Green Arts Initiative, SMIA, or Scottish Classical Sustainability Group.
- Work with sustainable suppliers where possible.
- Support musicians to adopt more environmentally sustainable behaviours, such as slow travel.
- Get training and support from relevant organisations like Zero Waste Scotland or Business Energy Scotland.
I work for a climate change or environmental organisation, what can I do?
People working in the music sector need advice and support to bring about change. They also have valuable skills that can help you achieve your broader environmental sustainability aims.
- Work with us to offer advice and support to musical organisations and venues, the more tailored to their specific needs this can be, the better.
- Work with musicians to help advance your own work. Musicians can be great communicators and connectors, but they also need to be paid a proper fee for their work. You can find some ideas in this directory.
- Consider booking musical venues for your events. These are trusted spaces with built in audiences. Use our GIS map on the research tab to find venues, or take a look at this list.
- Ensure that you understand the needs of the sector when working with them. There are specific practices and barriers that need to be taken into account, such as touring practices or the high number of freelancers.
I work in policy or governance, what can I do?
People in the music sector are keen to act but need institutional support to do so. Make sure that the city’s vibrant music sector has a place in just transition plans for the area and ensure that there is financial or in-kind support to facilitate this.
- Include music sector actors in consultations or focus groups, ensuring a range of different organisation types are included. Use networks like the Green Arts Initiative, Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA), or Scottish Classical Sustainability Group.
- Communicate existing sources of sustainability funding and support to the music sector, working with e.g. the Musicians’ Union or Creative Carbon Scotland.
- Ensure that music sector organisations are eligible for relevant funding or support schemes.
- Work with the music sector to help share information that is relevant to the broader just transition for Glasgow through their channels.
- Work across departments; share resources between those focused on sustainability and on the creative industries.
I’m an academic or researcher, what can I do?
We’re keen to compare our findings with work that others are doing, such as other mapping projects in Glasgow or work on just and green transitions for music sectors in other cities.
- Use our resources for your own work.
- Share any relevant research with researchers at the Interdisciplinary Music Industries Research Group (IMIRGe).
- Get in touch to suggest any additions or corrections to what we have produced, or ideas for how these findings can be used.
I’m a music fan, what can I do?
If you care about the music sector and want it to flourish in an environmentally sustainable future then make sure your voice is heard.
- Share your ideas on what a just and green music sector in Glasgow would look like.
- If you want your local music venues to adopt greener practices, let them know. Offer constructive feedback through responses to surveys or chatting with staff.
- If there are musicians or musical organisations that you think are doing great stuff, share those stories with us so we can help promote them.
Our work is guided by two research questions:
- What does a ‘just and green transition’ mean in the context of a city’s music industry and culture?
- How can music activity be integrated into the city’s wider just and green transition strategy?
‘Turn Up The Volume’ Survey
In 2022 researchers at the University of Glasgow worked with a range of music industry stakeholders (Music Declares Emergency, BPI, Secretly Group, Beggars Group, Involved Group, and Key Production) on a new piece of audience research offering insights into the perception of climate issues amongst music fans. The research also assessed whether recent music industry initiatives are influencing audience thinking and the importance music fans place on climate issues in their purchasing choices. The project compared responses from a nationally representative sample of the UK population (2,184 respondents) via a YouGov poll, with targeted responses from music fans across a spectrum of genres.
Figure 1: Headline findings of the ‘Turn Up The Volume’ Survey (2022)
The results clearly showed that music fans place greater importance on climate change and desire more action from the music industry and society to address climate-related issues. Despite poor knowledge of existing music industry initiatives around sustainability music fans show a desire to know more about these efforts. There is also some evidence that a significant proportion of music fans are willing to change their consumption habits to help reduce the impact of the music industry on the environment. This pattern of results broadly holds when looking at people who listen to music, people who spend money on music and people who claim music is important to them personally as well as respondents who fit into all these categories, indicating robust empirical results.1
A Map of the City’s Music Sector
We are currently mapping the music sector in Glasgow using geo-spatial and social network analysis methods. Our geo-spatial research not only provides a map of all the locations in the city where music happens (which can then be filtered according to type and capacity), but it also allows us to layer additional datasets (e.g. the city’s cycling infrastructure, flood risk areas, etc.) to explore how other aspects of urban planning may impact the music sector. You can view our Glasgow Music City Map here.
Meanwhile, the social network analysis provides a way to visualize relationships between music organisations and energy infrastructure (e.g. travel, energy supply, procurement, and connections – or lack thereof – with sustainability support organisations). This allows us to identify what challenges hinder (and what potential new resources might assist) music organizations to work towards a just green transition. Contact us to take part in our ongoing social network analysis mapping project.
Our research team previously led the UK Live Music Census (2018), the first nationwide census of its kind in the world, which included a case study of Glasgow’s live music scene.2
We also collaborated with Creative Carbon Scotland on the project “Fields of Green: Addressing Sustainability and Climate Change through Music Festival Communities” (2016).3
In addition, our team has published investigations into the economic and environmental costs of music recording formats4 and the infrastructure underpinning live music events.5
1 Shaw, D., Brennan, M. , McKeever, D. and Wong, M. (2022) ‘Turn Up the Volume’ Survey: Music Fan Attitudes towards Climate Change and Music Sustainability – Initial Report. University of Glasgow.
2 Webster, E., Brennan, M. , Behr, A., Cloonan, M. and Ansell, J. (2020) Making live music count: The UK Live Music Census. Popular Music and Society, 43(5), pp. 501-522. (doi: 10.1080/03007766.2019.1627658).
3 Brennan, M. , Collinson-Scott, J., Connelly, A. and Lawrence, G. (2019) Do music festival communities address environmental sustainability and how? A Scottish case study. Popular Music, 38(2), pp. 252-275. (doi: 10.1017/S0261143019000035)
4 Brennan, M. and Devine, K. (2020) The cost of music. Popular Music, 39(1), pp. 43-65. (doi: 10.1017/S0261143019000552).
5 Brennan, M. (2021) The infrastructure and environmental consequences of live music. In: Devine, K. and Boudreault-Fournier, A. (eds.) Audible Infrastructures: Music, Sound, Media. Oxford University Press: Oxford, pp. 117-134. ISBN 9780190932633 (doi: 10.1093/oso/97801909326.