Sex, drugs and the environment

Dr. Audrey-Flore Ngomsik
4 min readNov 28, 2021


“So ya, thought ya

Might like to go to the show…”

At any given time, there are X different concerts scheduled in any given city.

Artists spend half their lifetime on the road, some travel light with just their guitar, others put on spectacular shows.

Some draw a few dozen spectators, others more than even the biggest venues could hold.

We are looking at the environmental impact of the pop music world.

“Now look at them yo-yos,

That’s the way you do it:

You play the guitar on the MTV”.

There was a time when being in the rock’n’roll business was easy.

Or at least it was seen that way: Give a concert, consume some illegal substances, have a good time, trash the odd hotel room…

Inside information however, such as offered by AC/DC, taught us that it is indeed a long way to the top.

Nowadays, the situation is even more complex.

The general concern about the environment has led to all human activities being scrutinised in view of their effects on said environment.

Looking at the environmental impact of the sports world (football, tennis, motor-racing etc.) it is easily seen that the lion’s share of the environmental impact is travel-related.[1]

“Another town, another place

Another girl, another face…”

Like in the sports world it is rarely just the musician(s) alone who travel from A to B, there is an entourage of various people riding along in the music biz as well (managers, roadies, partners, record company representatives, journalists etc.) and like in the sports world there is a lot of equipment to be carried around (instruments, amplifiers, speakers, light shows, merchandise etc.).

And like in the sports world, this is just the one side of the coin.

The other side is the paying customers (vulgo fans) who travel to the concerts, usually as individuals or small groups.

Joe Cocker performs in front of huge lighting- and sound towers

Live… In the heart of the city

Concerts may take place in cities in smaller or larger venues which can be reached more or less conveniently by public transport.

Large festivals (Glastonbury, Wacken etc.) come with an even bigger environmental footprint are not as easy to get to which means most people arrive by car.

Such festivals are like entire cities, erected for an extended weekend and dismantled again, not to speak of the enormous amounts of rubbish crowds of up to 100.000 people tend to leave behind.

All in all, quite a footprint for some enchanted evening.

What can be done and what is being done

All players in the music business have their part to play in cleaning and greening up the music industry.

The people fighting the war on waste at music festivals

In 2019, the band Coldplay has announced a stop to touring until their concerts could have a positive impact on the environment.[2]

That is laudable.

However, only very well-established artists may pursue such initiatives.

In the ephemeral world of pop music, less well known acts are quickly forgotten and artists who find their place somewhere below the very top of the economic pyramid simply cannot afford to stop touring.

“And the men who hold high places

Must be the ones who start

To mold a new reality

Closer to the heart”

On the other hand, it naturally befalls those already in the spotlight to pave the way for others to follow.

The easiest way for all parties involved to make a change would be some carbon footprint offset, say plant a hundred trees for every concert played.

That might not seem a lot but considering how many artists play how many gigs it would add up.

The Dave Matthews Band said in January it would offset carbon emissions created by its 2020 summer tour by planting a million trees.[3]

This would be step zero.

Actual change would derive from concert venues greening up their electricity use, both in the supply and in the consumption.

Bands could rethink their merchandise strategy:

Do we really need that many different t-shirt designs for every tour?

And last but not least, the fans need to reconsider their role as consumers as well.

“When they look back at us

When they write down their history

What will they say about our generation?”

Musicians and bands can also write lyrics that deal with environmental problems, and the list of artists who have done that is indeed long.

However, that is a fine line to tread; not every artist’s public image is suited to play the educator.

That said:

Let there be rock!

If you are organising an event and would like to make it more sustainable, or if you would like a selection of similar articles, click on the link below:



Dr. Audrey-Flore Ngomsik

Co-Fonder of Trianon Scientific Communication. Expert in Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainable Development for profitability—