Music emanates from our alarm clocks in the morning, motivates us at the gym, fills our cars, gives us chills and makes us cry. It has the beautiful ability to connect people and communicate a common language across borders worldwide regardless of race, religion, income, gender or age. With a powerful avenue to communicate with millions, what message should we be spreading? According to the United Nations Environment Programme, music is one of the most powerful media to communicate environmental messages to billions of people.
With music festivals becoming more and more popular, it is the modern way to ignite the masses toward environmental awareness and sustainability. Luckily, music festival producers like Live Nation-Green Nation and AEG Live’s 1Earth are leading the way by committing to initiatives to reduce their environmental impact. Uniquely, INSOMNIAC CARES touches on environmental awareness by partnering with over 50 local and national organizations dedicated to the reforestation of local parks.
Envision Music Festival largely centers its ethos around respecting the environment and maintaining sustainability practices. One of their greatest contributions to the environment is that they have helped plant over 15,000 trees in the Costa Rican jungle, renewing what was once depleted cattle pastures. We applaud them for their focus around waste management and recycling but unfortunately, there is one very unsustainable practice that is being neglected and will have serious, lasting effects on both 50 million U.S. music festival citizens and the earth they dance on.
Ever wonder how music festivals power days of lights, lasers, fire installations and vendors all while making sure you can hear every lyric from the lips of your favorite artist? The answer is diesel generators. Max Zhang, an engineering professor at Cornell University, has studied air pollution from diesel generators. In general, he said, diesel generators have an outsized impact on pollution compared to other sources of power: “Basically, they tend to be dirtier per unit of energy provided.” According to Zhang, it can also pose a problem depending on where and when festivals are running their diesel generators. The nitrogen oxides that generators emit combine with other compounds in the presence of sunlight to form ozone, a potent trigger for asthma attacks and other health problems.
(Download PM10 App & Test The Air Quality at your next music festival) Android
Diesel emissions produce ozone killing toxins (Nitrogen dioxide, or NO2) and also exude high levels of petrochemicals. In 1998, California identified diesel exhaust (aka “soot”) as a toxic air contaminant based on its potential to cause cancer, premature death, and other health problems. Typical diesel generator exhaust contains more than 40 toxic air contaminants, including a variety of carcinogenic compounds. The California Air Resources Board estimates that an uncontrolled one-megawatt diesel engine operating for only 250 hours per year would increase the cancer risk to residents within one city block by as much as 50 percent.
A recent lawsuit invoked against SnowGlobe Music Festival (Owned by MTV & ViacomCBS) and Coachella (produced by GoldenVoice & owned by AEG Live), led these festivals to be sued under California’s Prop 65. Our editorial team reached out to ViacomCBS, GoldenVoice and AEG Live numerous times to learn more about their efforts toward sustainability and Prop 65, but they left us with no comment. This new development has turned what started as an environmental issue, that has now escalated into a serious public health and safety concern. Even seven-time Grammy-winning rock band Coldplay made a stand not to be exposed to diesel emission toxins and paused all touring at music festivals, as reported on Nov. 21, 2019, by UK based Ms. Isabel Togoh, a Breaking news reporter for Forbes: Coldplay To Pause Touring Over Environmental Concerns.
Photo Credit: Flavio Lo Scalzo/AGF/Shutterstock
“…our dream is to have a show with no single-use plastic, to have it largely solar-powered..”
Coldplay frontman Chris Martin in an interview with the BBC
(High Sierra Music Festival-Quincy, California)
According to Nielsen’s Audience Insights Report, approximately 32 million people attend at least one music festival in the U.S. each year. LiveNation and AEG Live both had annual reports that showed their average annual revenue increased 14% over the last 6 years which has created a U.S. music festival population of over 50 million festival citizens (which is similar to the population size of Spain or California!). Music Festival Citizens are not only the millions of fans that crowd the stages but are also inclusive of artists, festival staff, first responders, non-profits, volunteers, merch vendors, food vendors, the host city and brand sponsors. As more people attend music festivals every year, protecting our music festival citizens is very important.
Festivals are a powerful way to connect with people and are rising in popularity year by year, in a climate otherwise pervaded by somewhat superficial online interaction. An age where younger generations are the most digitally connected but are also the loneliest. Festivals gather people together to help fill that void. Many people will sleep in tents for days just to snag a glimpse of Beyonce making history at Coachella, or fight the crowds to catch the glitzy twinkling from Dolly Parton’s rhinestone-covered pantsuit at UK’s Glastonbury.
They are initially attracted by the performers but are ultimately hooked for life by the ‘out-of-this-world’ experience. This experience is filled with fire breathers, dancers, fireworks and genuine human connections. In other words, while the initial attraction to festivals may be the stellar lineup or recognizable headlining musicians, it is the overall inclusive and exhilarating experience that festivals cultivate which keeps them coming back for more.
It’s no secret that attending live events makes people feel more connected to others, the community, and the world. In fact, for the Millennial generation, the most important things in life are experiences and relationships instead of possessions. The average person will easily spend $1,000 to go to a major festival and not even blink an eye when associated with an extraordinary experience. A report conducted by Beacon Economics stated that for over five years from 2010-2014, Insomniac alone generated $3.17 Billion for the U.S. economy. That translates to over 25,000 jobs, $1 billion in labor income for workers, and $18.1 million in local and state taxes.
$866.3 million directly impacted local hotels, other accommodations, services, transportation, food & beverages, and entertainment. Unfortunately, since the industry has not rallied together to unite and collaborate against harmful energy consumption, there hasn’t been an effort towards putting together an annual national economic impact study. While we know festivals are contributing a positive economic impact on communities across the U.S., there is something that festivals bring to the world that truly make them special.
BottleRock (Napa Valley, CA)SHAKY KNEES MUSIC FESTIVAL (Atlanta, GA)Coachella (Indio,CA)MADE IN AMERICA (Philadelphia, PA)SXSW (Austin, TX)LOST LANDS (Legend Valley, OH)EDC-Las Vegas (Las Vegas, NV)IMAGINE MUSIC FESTIVAL (Atlanta, GA)Burning Man (Blackrock Desert, NV)HARD SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVAL (Fontana, CA)Bonnaroo (Mansfield, TN)PARADISO FESTIVAL (George, WA)Summerfest (Milwaukee, WI)Rolling Loud (Europe, LA & Miami, FL)Lollapalooza (Chicago, IL)PITCHFORK MUSIC FESTIVAL (Chicago, IL)Electric Zoo (New York, NY)LOUDER THAN LIFE ROCK FESTIVAL (Louisville, KY)Outside Lands (San Francisco, CA)iHEARTRADIO MUSIC FESTIVAL (Las Vegas, NV)Austin City Limits (Austin, TX)CAMP BISCO (Scranton, PA)New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (New Orleans, LA)DIRTYBIRD CAMPOUT (Woodland Hills, CA)Firefly Music Festival (Dover, DE)LUCIDITY FESTIVAL (Santa Barbara, CA)CMA Music Festival (Nashville, TN)OKEECHOBEE MUSIC FESTIVAL (Okeechobee, FL)Stagecoach (Indio, CA)ARISE Music Festival (Loveland, CO)Essence Music Festival (New Orleans, LA)Watershed Country Music Festival (George, WA)Governor’s Ball (New York, NY)SNOWGLOBE MUSIC FESTIVAL (South Lake Tahoe, CA)Ultra Music Festival-Miami (Miami, FL)Common Ground Music Festival (Lansing, MI)Hangout Music Fest (Gulf Shores, AL)Boston Calling (Boston, MA)Country Thunder (Florence, AZ)Aftershock Rock Fest (Sacramento, CA)KAABOO (San Diego, CA)Bourbon & Beyond (Louisville, KY)Voodoo Music Festival (New Orleans, LA)Forecastle (Louisville, KY)Life Is Beautiful (Las Vegas, NV)Epicenter Music Festival (Concord, NC)BUKU MUSIC + ART PROJECT (New Orleans, LA)Rock Fest (Cadot, WI)LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE (Buena Vista Lake, CA)Rocklahoma (Pryor, OK)
The good news is that cleantech is stepping up to the plate and revolutionizing clean energy solutions. Battery technology has been somewhat stagnant for decades, but Seattle-based clean energy pioneer Joule Case has stepped through the ropes with a wicked cool 1-2 punch aimed straight at toxic, antiquated diesel power generators. Battery power gives festivals more options than simply solar and wind, which poses challenges when the sun sets or the winds die down.
Last year, Insomniac (a global music powerhouse producer), partnered with Joule Case to help power EDC-Las Vegas Camp Area, which is equivalent to providing power for a small city with attendance averaging around 465,000 people. After an impressive success, music festival legend and Global SVP of Production & Operations for Insomniac, Rutger Jansen, challenged Joule Case l by proving they could power a festival main stage.
“If you look at a generator, it just doesn’t make sense to me anymore, with all of the technology that we have.”
Rutger Jansen, Insomniac Events Global SVP of Production & Operations
On Feb. 13, 2020, Christie Lites Warehouse of Las Vegas, hosted a clean energy demo and invited industry leaders and music festival producers from Insomniac, Live Nation, Burning Man, iHeartRadio Music Festival, and BottleRock. All of the leaders and producers were eager to witness the demo and Joule Case pulled it off!
EDC Las Vegas Camp Area
Joule Case tackled the unthinkable and powered the equivalent of a 300kva Genset. He only used 5% of the clean energy for over 48 hours of testing, setup, and the full demo. James Wagoner, CEO & Co-Founder shared, “We have been working with music festivals for several years now. We have learned a ton and are excited to change how music festivals are powered. Joule Case technology allows the battery system to be ideally sized for their application and power demand.” Insomniac’s Rutger Jansen was so impressed at the demo that he shared, “It’s not just about saving money, it’s about sustainability. We will be incorporating Joule Case this year.”
Christie Lites Warehouse – Las Vegas, NV
With so many eyes on the demo, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive:
Insomniac Events – Alyxzander Bear aka “Bear”- Executive Director of Production – “I’m hoping we have a good power vendor that will join the 21st Century”.
Bottlerock Napa Valley – Justin Dragoo, Partner, stated “We’re looking at it much more holistically. It’s not really about the short term economics. It’s about: are festivals really going to be around in the future if we don’t get smarter? We’ve been trying to press the limit on sustainability and be good partners to the planet for the last several years. We’re ready to move as fast as the technology allows us to”.
iHeartRadio Music Festival – Independent Production Contractor, Seth Goldstein, stated, “I like it a lot, as far as stages go I’m cautious, as far as vendors and other parts of a festival it has a lot of promise. Place things where you want it instead of where the cables go”.
Burning Man – Jeremy Crandell who co-lead the Art Department stated, “This is the future. Exciting…Burning Man could invest in this and have power for years”.
Rutger Jansen’s final thoughts after the demo: “It’s not just about saving money, it’s about sustainability. I’m a huge fan…this is going to be big. The power providers in this industry need to see this as an opportunity”.
Along with this successful clean energy milestone, FestWorld Founder, Scotty Moore formed a non-profit called the U.S. Music Festival Clean Energy Alliance (USMFCEA), a coalition of clean energy solution providers, researchers, scientists and sustainability chiefs at the city and brand level dedicated to discovering clean energy solutions to power our U.S. festival eco-system for generations to come. Their mission is to eliminate all diesel generators at festivals and have 100% clean energy by 2026. With the help of sustainability chiefs around the world, the message is loud and clear:
“We must collaborate and solve the way music festivals are powered in order to create a real paradigm shift and preserve the music festival experience for generations to come. Music Festivals are so special to me, my team and millions in the U.S. because they bring people from all walks of life together. When you combine diversity, inclusivity with the power of music that’s an example of humanity at its best.”
Scotty Moore, Executive Director at USMFCEA
The future of festivals will have two headliners…sustainability and clean energy. A lineup we’ve never seen before. #GoCleanTech2026 #FestWorldOurWorld
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