Audiences could become the solution as live music and clubbing try to be greener now that major acts and venues are seriously investigating kinetic technologies that turn human movement into the energy needed to power these very events.
The recent COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland has once again thrown a (LED) spotlight on green issues and the growing movement around Music Declares Emergency is working to ensure the music industry becomes a leader, rather than a follower, here.
The music industry has not been shirking from its responsibilities here, with the well-established Julie’s Bicycle being an important organisation in helping the sector to focus its attention and collectively work towards greener goals. But this year has seen momentum around these issues like never before as well as a number of solutions, initially seen as niche, suddenly propelled into the mainstream.
Equally the technologies to turn surfaces that audiences stand (or dance) on into energy are not new – they have quietly been building in the background – but they are now reaching a tipping point.
Dutch company Energy Floors was working on this idea back in 2006 and bringing it to fruition in 2008 with Club Watt in Rotterdam, described as “an ecological dance club with flooring tile that harnesses the ecstatic movements of dancers, converting kinetic energy to actual electricity”. It created the Sustainable Dance Floor, a line of floor tiles to be installed by venues to tap into this unexploited exertion of movement and energy that defines the clubbing experience.
Energy Floors suggests that each tile – measuring 75x75x20cm – can produce up to 35 watts of energy which can then be fed into the venue’s system.
“We started by thinking ‘how can you make nightclubs more sustainable?’” Michel Smit, CEO of the company, told CNBC. “[W]hy not have 1,000 people jumping, running, dancing, going crazy at night – why don’t we use that energy to make a positive impact?”
British company Pavegen has been ploughing a similar furrow, also applying its technology to public spaces like sidewalks, transport hubs, retail outlets and educational establishments. It is even using the re-opening of venues as a rallying cry for them to become more environmentally responsible. “With the return of live events globally, it is important to consider the unsustainable environmental impacts that these may have,” is currently the opening message on its website.
Clubs in Berlin, Germany also started installing similar technologies in early 2019. Poignantly SWG3, a club in Glasgow, harnessing the media exposure around the city due to COP26, is going one (dance) step further by installing the BODYHEAT system which, as the name suggests, captures body heat from frenetic dancers to create renewable energy that can be used at a later date to heat up or cool down the venue. It will be operational from next year and, reports the BBC, “will save approximately 70 tonnes of CO2 per year”.
Now there appears to be a stampede onto not just these kinetic dance floors but also at wider concert venues.
Coldplay have stated they will only tour when they can do so in a more sustainable manner – saying that kinetic flooring technology and bicycles will be part of their wider energy-generating plans.
“The more people move, the more they’re helping,” frontman Chris Martin told the BBC. “You know when the frontman says, ‘We need you to jump up and down’? When I say that, I literally really need you to jump up and down. Because if you don’t, then the lights go out.”
Martin accepts that no solution currently is going to be perfect and that accusations of hypocrisy, because the band still use private jets, are unavoidable.
“[T]here’s still a lot of offsetting we have to do, because even sustainable aviation fuel isn’t good enough yet,” he said. “So we know where we still have a long way to go. But in terms of the show itself, the whole show is powered from renewable energy, which is amazing.”
What needs to be accepted here is that this is all still at the most preliminary stages. No current solution is going to be without its flaws, but the point needs to be made that it is merely the first step in a much larger process. Improvements will happen incrementally and significant milestones will be slowly reached; but starting off with some flaws in the system should not discourage the music business from, as one, trying to get to the ideal end goal of Saturday light fever.