Sustainable Music – Giving Your Music More Value
We take very seriously the environmental impact of making music. Crown Lane Studio director John Merriman has been on the journey a long time. PSNEurope (a European trade journal that sadly had to close as a result of Covid-19) asked him to share his top tips for creating a fully sustainable recording. Here is a bang up-to-date dive into why being sustainable adds value to your recording – fully updated.
[A variant of this article first appeared in PSN Europe in February 2018 – fully updated in 2020]
It’s 2020: and although the year began with a strong continuation of the desire for the world to become “plastic free” – the world jolted into sudden gear shift of survival mode. Almost overnight, sustainability shot down the list of priorities for most businesses – particularly the music and entertainment industry, one of the worst hit by the pandemic. So, prior to this seismic shift, how was the professional audio industry measuring up? The good news is, according to reports within the arts and creative sector, emissions are reducing, energy efficiency is improving and the industry was becoming more resilient. However, according to many experts, the change hadn’t been fast enough.
South-west London’s Crown Lane Studio was set up in 2005 and has always had an ambition to be totally carbon-neutral. The studios use hydro electricity, LED lighting and has full insulation.
We want every recording to enhance people’s lives. Firstly through the sheer joy of music, but also in the knowledge that the planet has not been damaged during the music’s production. Our studios continue to be fully sustainable, even during and post-Covid-19. – For those who want to know the details to add to your liner notes – or to adopt ideas for your own set-ups at home – here is some of what we’re doing at Crown Lane:
- We measure our impact
It’s important to be aware of the environmental effects of your business. London-based charity Julie’s Bicycle has a range of resources to help the entertainment industry measure its environmental impact. The charity launched in 2007 to encourage creative enterprises to approach business in more environmentally friendly ways. It has since helped large venues create sustainable business plans to tackle climate change. They have great ideas on how you too can get started. Their stringent measurement system – Creative Green Tools help us to review and improve where we’re at as a business environmentally.
- We precure the most sustainable products
Our partnership with Genelec monitors, for example, (which use 95% recycled aluminium in their construction) stemmed from a shared desire to reduce our environmental impact. Where possible all our equipment in manufactured in the UK. Our cables are the only UK made cables that are delivered carbon-neutrally across the UK. The company also strives for sustainability in all stages of product development. K&M stands are not only robust, so they last longer, but you can ask for an exploded diagram of them, and every single part is replaceable. Our microphones are nearly all made in the UK, many by Sontronics, who although producing some of their entry level microphones in China, have moved most production back to the UK.
- We take pride
Despite the pressures of Covid-19, most artists are awake to sustainability and aren’t fooled by the greenwashing that unfortunately still occurs. At our studio in Morden, south-west London, the whole process is carbon-neutral, meaning that any band who rehearses, or any recording released is 100% carbon-neutral. This is something for every artist to shout about, and be proud of. We’ve made it easier for everyone to make a positive impact.
- Plan ahead
Sustainability is a lifelong journey, however small, it’s important to start. We developed a clear plan and ensured it became policy, so future decisions have a positive impact on our planet and sustainability becomes part of the culture. This meant that in 2020 when we developed our events space – Metronome, all business decisions were easier to make, with cost remaining tertiary to quality and the environment.
- We monitor the promises of energy suppliers and waste management
Sometimes the simple decisions have the biggest impact. Changing energy suppliers, or switching to a true green tariff can make huge changes. We monitor the market for the most sustainable energy companies, and have transitioned our waste management to First Mile. While it’s harder for us (we separate the waste into categories on-site) – they ensure nothing, absolutely zero, goes to landfill.
- We regularly apply for grants to improve the environment
There are still many grants available for sustainable changes to your business. At Crown Lane, we regularly start by approaching both our local council and chamber of commerce to see what grants are available. In 2018 for example we received substantial support in upgrading all our air conditioning units and received an in-depth on-site sustainability survey. As a result, we actioned further changes such as improving the seal on external doors.
- We campaign
If a product arrives and we feel there’s an alternative means of packaging that would use less plastic, we communicate directly with companies. This kind of consumer pressure has far more impact than you’d imagine. Recently, a delivery from one of the largest electronic music equipment manufacturers arrived in polystyrene. A couple of emails and we were through to product development, and they’ve not only heard our comments, they’ve provided us with their plan over the next few years. We can now hold them publicly accountable to their promises.
- We reuse and recycle
On-site we have a recycling point for the following:
- Cymbals – We recycle these through a creative scheme at Dream Cymbals
- Drum sticks – We compost all sticks locally
- Plastic – through First Mile
- Paper – through First Mile
- Glass – through First Mile
- Food Waste – through First Mile
- Celebrate our successes with us – they’re yours too
Although our motivation for being sustainable remains the essential benefits to the planet, over the years we have won several green awards, and continue to use the application process to sharpen areas we may have neglected. Recording or rehearsing with us means these celebrations are yours too – and we want you to be a part of the journey. This next season while the entertainment, culture and arts worlds reel from the pandemic will be tough, so join with us, ensuring your music and the planet wins.