How artist managements are seeking to address environmental issues

Andrew Green
Thursday, October 29, 2020

When artists are on the move again, will they use more sustainable forms of transport?


In an article published in the Guardian newspaper last December,  HarrisonParrott’s executive chairman Jasper Parrott insisted that ‘faced with undeniable scientific evidence of man-made climate change, music and arts professionals must take a stand rather than blindly continuing with business as usual’. Meanwhile, the International Artist Managers’ Association Conference, due to have taken place in Barcelona last April but postponed due to coronavirus, was to have featured a panel session on Sustainable Business: The Environment, at the instigation of association chairman Cornelia Schmid, head of the Konzertdirektion Schmid company.

Both Schmid and Parrott have been collaborating with staff at their respective offices to establish sustainability as a major priority in day-to-day operations. One mind-changing experience for Schmid was holidaying in South America while fires were devastating landscapes in two regions, prompting thoughts on links to climate change. But increasingly, she says, ‘just in everyday conversations, concern for the environment has become a subject you can’t help discussing. Things cannot go on as they are. We’ve set up climate committees within our offices in Hanover, Berlin and London. They’ve looked at all the issues: cutting down on waste, using less water, reducing plastics and conserving energy. We’ve worked with ARKTIK, an environmental consultancy in Hamburg, to see how, for example, we can offset our business travel.’

HarrisonParrott also has a new internal ‘environment committee’, while likewise making use of a consultant to measure the company’s carbon footprint and examine ways of compensating for it. One inspiration for Jasper Parrott has been Greta Thunberg. ‘She’s singlehandedly done more to change the situation than all the governments around the world have collectively managed over the last five years.’

Parrott is putting in place an approach that’s ‘coherent and long-term. It’s not a case of dashing out to plant trees or taking precipitate action that would have serious consequences for the company. Clearly, we have to reduce the amount of international business travel we do, especially by air. All managers bidding for travel funds will face stringent questions, to ensure money won’t be used wastefully. Planning ahead is vital. I’m now focused on using public transport wherever I possibly can, only using planes where distances are too great.’ HP’s installation of high-quality video conferencing equipment will assist in the avoidance of travel -both for business and for everyday contacts between the company’s offices in London, Paris and Munich.

" Clearly, we have to reduce the amount of international business travel we do, especially by air "

Adapting working practices is one thing, but what about the far greater amount of travelling undertaken by artists that managements represent? Potentially, a difficult subject to handle, reckons Cornelia Schmid. ‘It’s fine for artists with big careers who can choose to take one engagement or travel option rather than another to meet climate change objectives. But what if you’re struggling for engagements, or in the process of building a career, and needing to accept dates which may mean lots of travelling?

‘We’ve sent a letter to artists asking them to reflect on the issues. Many already think seriously about them, of course. If they’re not literally flying here and there all the time it’s bound to reduce the stress which inevitably goes with the job. It can encourage a more balanced lifestyle. I recently chose to take the 11-hour train journey from Marseilles to Hanover and it was so much more relaxing without all the stress of flying.’

HarrisonParrott artist managers have been engaging on sustainability strategies not just with artists but also orchestras it tours and concert venues it serves. For one thing, Jasper Parrott questions the justification for orchestras clocking up air miles on foreign tours to then perform unadventurous, standard repertoire at the behest of promoting organisations concerned not to frighten potential concertgoers. ‘So we’re looking to collaborate with halls and orchestras in order to plan better in an exciting, creative way. One simple practical thing that can be learnt from the example in Nordic countries is to schedule concerts earlier, so concertgoers can get home easily on public transport.’