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Artyness columnist Liza Mulholland says 'Now that COP26 is over ... ?'


By Liza Mulholland

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Let’s not cop out.

Now that COP26 is over and we’re all trying to understand where things go from here, many of us will be looking afresh at our own lives and work to see how we can make changes and live more mindfully of the planet and nature.

Liza Mulholland
Liza Mulholland

In the world of music there is lots of discussion now around how to tour more sustainably, how to hold carbon-neutral festivals, how to be able to perform without a massive carbon footprint. Oh, and then there’s merchandise.

I think it’s fair to say that most folk musicians don’t sell many physical CDs anymore, except at gigs and concerts. Live performance is where you shift your albums; it’s a connection with an artist, a memento of an experience that audience members want to continue to enjoy at home.

It’s the dopamine-effect rush of feelgood enthusiasm that propels people to your merchandise table after a gig to scoop up not just CDs, but t-shirts, posters, books and whatever else you’ve dreamed up to sell. And often musicians make more money from their merch than they do from the actual gig, so it’s a vital component in our livelihoods!

I’m certain most folk musicians have a box or two of CDs gathering dust in a cupboard or garage, which were earmarked to be sold in 2020… or 2021! It looks like it will be 2022 before proper regular gigging resumes and we get a chance to sell them.

The future of CDs...
The future of CDs...

But going forward, will we continue to print as many? Well, certainly not in those horrible hard plastic cases and my guess is more bands will look at ways of selling digital music at gigs.

It’s amazing how fast innovation happens when there is a sense of urgency. Megastars like Coldplay, who are aiming for zero-carbon concerts, have already figured out how to harness the stamping and dancing of their audiences for green power. Hi-tech flooring converts movement into electricity that can be used to power lighting etc and that’s just the start.

With Brexit rendering touring in the EU incredibly difficult with a veritable mountain of paperwork, taxes etc – and that’s before you even think of bringing in that merchandise – many musicians might be content to ply their trade closer to home, which is also better for the environment.

Moves are afoot to support and enable Scottish musicians to play smaller local venues, bringing the music to the people.

Festivals are a whole other ballgame in terms of carbon but here’s to an end to the oceans of rubbish left behind by selfish souls who can’t be bothered dismantling their tents, more recycling bins, and, please, no more plastic glasses?

And politicians, how about grants to install Coldplay-type floor sensors in our village halls? Think of the electricity that could be generated from a rollicking good ceilidh dance!

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