This is a guest column by Simon O’Kelly, CEO of UMA Entertainment, which uses music, live events, broadcast and technology to progress social good and environmental sustainability. He and his team were at the recent COP26 summit in November (pictured above), and we invited him to discuss music’s positive role in the climate emergency fight – and also how the industry can adapt to reduce carbon emissions. You can read Music Ally’s previous climate emergency coverage here.

Music. Famously, one of the great connectors. Transcending borders, cultural divides and uniting humankind on a fundamentally intimate level. In many ways, there are few conduits more truly global than music.

Another is the environment. Oceans, rivers, forests, deserts – ecosystems generously providing lifelines across the planet – also transcendent of those same contrived parameters, and right now, the planet and its ecosystem is in peril. Speaking at a UMA Entertainment special event at the UN Climate Change conference, COP26, Kumi Naidoo, Former Secretary General of Amnesty International and Greenpeace, reframed the environmental challenge by offering the perspective that “the planet will be fine. It is ourselves who need saving; our children’s future, and that of our children’s children.” and I believe he couldn’t be closer to the truth.

Simon O’Kelly, CEO of UMA Entertainment

After two years of involuntary social abstinence, we find ourselves emerging into a nouveau-monde, craving the repletion of energy exchange that we, as humans, need more than we once realised. We are ill equipped as a species to thrive in extended periods of time with ourselves, in which we are left alone with our thoughts, and devices… literal devices. Music (a simple remedy), particularly live music, has the ability to replenish our energy banks, encourage social interaction and create lasting moments that release serotonin, melatonin and all that good stuff – not just in the moment, but over time, through reflections of those memories. 

Music reminds us that we are, in fact, human, much more so than anything else. And with this, comes a new willingness; an awareness and sensitivity to what really matters in the world. We have been gifted a reset, and in many ways, the ability to choose our emotional engagements more clearly than before.

If we consider the common denominator between the two – music and the environment – we find that they are both, irrefutably, stories of humanity. One (music) can inspire and bring people together regardless of superficial differences and the other (the environment) is in need of the world to come together and enact change at an individual, corporate, and political level. 

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Norwegian artist, AURORA, shared the following sentiment with our audience at the UMA COP26 event “We have done impossible things before, and we can do impossible things in the future. Or what seems impossible at first”. Musicians have a platform – a relationship of truth, trust, and honesty with their fanbase, whether they’re aware of it, or not.

In the same breath, the music industry faces one of the largest environmental challenges when it comes to going greener. It is inherently set in its ways, and its supply chain relies heavily on an international exchange. From concerts and touring through to production and distribution, music and the people that make it must travel the world and are restricted in many circumstances to only being as green as current outside industries allow – aviation and transport in particular. 

The specific challenges have been documented many times in recent months, and progress on the ‘how’ is starting to be made, with several artists, companies and organisations lighting the way.

It is important that we move towards a greener industry from a technical perspective, but the impact the industry and those within it can have today is required, today. As we work towards industry-wide solutions to reducing carbon emissions, we must also elevate the one solution that we have in abundance, and that is using the voice of the arts, to help inspire, educate, and inform those who may still be a little too lost and are looking for a way in.

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