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Originators of the ‘No Music On A Dead Planet’ campaign, environmental group Music Declares Emergency aims to raise awareness of the climate crisis. Campaigning Director Maddy Read Clarke chats to Steev Burgess about the group’s aims, objectives and success so far
With over 25 years background working in the music industry, Maddy Read Clarke is campaigning director of environmental group Music Declares Emergency. Founded in 2019, the organisation’s ‘No Music On A Dead Planet’ campaign has been endorsed by luminaries such as Billie Eilish, Idles, Brian Eno and Jarvis Cocker. Alongside MDE Maddy is currently co-owner of Famous Times Studios in Hackney with her husband, musician and producer Sean Read.
PB: Hi Maddy, could you tell us how Music Declares Emergency came about and how it's growing?
MRC: I had programmed the music and staged managed the Marble Arch stage at the April Rebellion in 2019, there were a lot of music industry people and artists who got involved with Extinction Rebellion and had taken part in the Rebellion. Fay Milton drummer in Savages and I met at Marble Arch. She had literally just come back from playing Coachella in California and had come straight down on the Bank Holiday Monday and she called me a few weeks later to discuss the idea of creating a specific space for music to address the climate crisis.
Culture Declares had recently been set up, they represent art, theatre, museums and literature etc but we felt that music needed its own voice, as it’s a very different industry. We set up a meeting with a load of other interested people including Peter Quicke director of indie label Ninja Tune who is also and chair of British indies body AIM, the Association of Independent Music.
Nigel Adams founder of indie label Full Time Hobby, Lewis Jamieson from Loudhailer PR, plus musician and activist Tom Hardy from Adam and The Ants and The Monochrome Set became involved. Chiara Badiali from our sister organisation, charity Julie’s Bicycle who helps the music industry and arts become more sustainable, musician and activist Sam Lee and Tom Oakley from Warner Music also joined and that formed the basis of our existing working group.
Since then, we have been joined by a few more people and we have a brilliant and really hard working team. By some magic, we seemed to have the right people on board to make it happen. We spent a lot of time working on the wording of our declaration and once we got that right, we started reaching out to all our contacts in the industry, asking them to sign up as early declarers. Ninja Tune helped us build a website and a designer from XR helped us create a logo. Once we felt we had enough people of note on board to go public, Lewis did a press release and the story ran internationally in all the music trade papers.
What was incredible was the sense that we were creating a space that the industry was really ready to step into. By the time we went public we had a ton of artists signed up from Idles to Annie Lennox via hundreds of other names of note from across multiple genres. We also had all the major and most of the indie labels plus management companies, publishing companies and some big names form the live and festival sectors on board. Since then, we have grown to nearly six thousand declarers with the likes of Billie Eilish and Jarvis Cocker using the ‘No Music On A Dead Planet’ slogan and have MDE groups springing up across the globe. Our ‘No Music On A Dead Planet’ sustainable T-shirt campaign has been supported by hundreds of amazing artists and our campaigns have been widely reported on in press, podcasts, radio and TV.
PB: What are your specific aims and targets?
MRC: At the heart of our work is the declaration – that is what people commit to when they join us. The declaration calls for governments and media to tell the truth about the climate crisis, governments to reverse biodiversity loss and reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions to net zero by 2030. Acknowledge the global injustices that have led to the crisis and commitments to reducing our own impacts as an industry. Our website also offers loads of tips and advice for different areas of the industry to improve their working practices and ideas to create a better greener future for music.
We have a number of campaigns that we are working on within the music industry, from ending the use of plastic jewel cases and shrink wrap in CD production to supporting businesses to create more sustainable working practices. We are looking at reducing single use plastics in venues and festivals and encouraging artists to use their voice to talk about the climate crisis to their fan bases.
In April this year we launched the first of a yearly campaign called Turn Up The Volume which celebrates some of the industry pioneers who are making great strides in setting ambitious net-zero emissions targets and offered a platform to discuss and share their ideas around greening their businesses. We also curated and hosted a series of panels and talks on sustainability, launched Classical Declares and consulted on and supported the launch of a new industry tithing organisation called Earth Percent which is headed up by Brian Eno.
As well as supporting the industry in making itself greener, a really important part of our work is moving the climate conversation out of the usual echo chambers into the mainstream by using the amazing power of music and musicians to influence change though our ‘No Music On A Dead Planet’ campaign. We have found that artists are increasingly becoming more willing to talk about the subject and we have seen the slogan reach millions of people.
This year the UK are hosting COP26, the UN Climate talks in Glasgow (Mon 1st to Fri 12 November). It’s a really crucial moment for the world, especially since we are now starting to see very tangible and devastating effects of climate change around the globe. We are planning a big project that will hopefully get a lot of mainstream media attention and focus our governments on sticking to the target they committed to in Paris 2015 to stay within 1.5C degrees of global warming.
As we are currently headed to 4C degrees of warming, with little or no action being taken to prevent inevitable devastation of life on earth for many people and species, we feel people need to know this. We believe that people would want urgent action on climate change if they were really aware of how bad things already are. We hope that music with help to spread the word and focus the conversation.
In October we are co-hosting Music Climate Blowout with promoters Bird On The Wire and Adapt Climate Club. This will be a big in-real-life music industry conference around climate change as well as a really exciting gig on October 17th at EartH in Hackney.
PB: What has the response been from individual musicians and the music business in general? And what can musicians or a lyricist/writer in my case to make a difference?
MRC: Musicians are often called out as hypocrites for talking about climate change but taking their music to audiences is their job. Of course they can adopt better and cleaner ways to tour but, the truth is we are all hypocrites in some way. Until there is systemic change that allows us all to live cleaner and more sustainable lives, none of us can claim to be perfect. Talking about the crisis will push governments to act. The solutions are already there but the political will is not and until it becomes unacceptable for governments not to act, they won’t. Everyone needs to talk about the climate crisis but artists and lyricists more than anyone have a unique ability to reach millions of people. Climate change needs to be treated as a global emergency on the scale of a war or a pandemic, for example and people need and deserve to know the full truth about just how bad things really are. If the media won’t do it then popular culture must.
PB: I first came across Music Declares Emergency when you provided a stage for entertainment where the Extinction Rebellion protesters were camping at Hyde Park in 2019, how does your campaign dovetail with theirs?
MRC: Extinction Rebellion have done amazing and brilliant work in shifting the dial on the climate conversation and we are huge supporters of their work. But we’re trying to go for a more mainstream approach in our campaigning as we think a lot of people find the street blocking, non-violent civil disobedience tactic quite difficult and controversial. Our approach is less radical but hopefully effective in shifting the conversation outside of the more radical climate movement into the mainstream. Get involved - check out Music Declares at www.musicdeclares.net
PB: Thank you.
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