The music business should reply to the best problem humanity faces. Introducing EarthPercent.


The following MBW is from Mike Smith, Global President of Downtown Music Publishing. Here, Smith introduces EarthPercent, a new music industry charity founded by Brian Eno that calls upon music-related companies to donate a small percentage of their annual income that is then given to “the most impactful climate change organizations.”

In my time in music, I’ve been fortunate to work with a wide variety of artists who have one thing in common. Her art reflects, comments and criticizes the world around her. As a believer in the power of music to change the world, it’s no surprise that I’ve been drawn to such artists repeatedly.

It’s a belief that began when The Clash and 2-Tone showed a different world to a kid in the white suburb of Liverpool, reinforced by teenage years in St. Pauls, Bristol, discovered reggae at Carnival, and cemented it in the mid-80s in the words of NME journalists and the pro-vegetarian, anti-monarchist Smiths in their pomp.

It’s a belief that has stayed with me throughout my adult life, reinforced by the impact and success of Rock Against Racism, Live Aid, Free Tibet and Warchild, and by working with contemporary social chroniclers like Stormzy, Skepta and Dave.

As someone who has worked in the UK music industry my entire adult life, I also believe in our industry as an innovator. We may be the first to feel the power of the new digital economy, but we were also the first to look at the problem and come up with solutions. Using this reservoir of talent and economic power to tackle the big social problems is something we have done and must continue to do.

Like all sensible people, I am concerned about the state of the climate and our environment. I believe we run the risk of profoundly damaging the viability of human life on earth within a century if we do not act quickly and comprehensively.

Currently, less than 2% of global philanthropic funding is dedicated to tackling climate change, which is nowhere near enough to meet the scale of the global challenge. Given that any other charity, by definition, is ultimately pointless unless climate change is addressed, this has motivated me to look for ways in which music can change that dynamic.

Working in an industry that I knew had impacted this situation through touring, marketing, and sales increased the desire to take positive action.

What stopped me was the complexity. A variety of options, a menu of actions. It was uncertain where the funding could and should be targeted, and it was uncertain what funding would enable it and what results it would produce.

Julie’s Bicycle’s work over a decade has shown that there has been real change in the broader cultural sector and music industry, and the launch of Music Declares Emergency in 2019 showed that many of my colleagues and contemporaries shared my view that we needed being a part of it and wanting us to move forward, but how we did that was still uncertain in my head.

When Lizzie Payne-James introduced me to the concept of EarthPercent, a charity founded by Brian Eno specifically designed to get the music industry to fund climate charities, I was keen to get involved .

The basic concept was that EarthPercent would involve planet earth as a stakeholder in the music industry. Getting on board the project as a trustee was not a difficult decision.

“The music business is facing a business reality. As governments around the world commit to statutory net zero targets, it is imperative to innovate our practices to achieve emissions reductions. “

Mike Smith

EarthPercent believes that philanthropy – through its ability to take risks, be disruptive, test ideas, and scale solutions – can play an important role in accelerating change and realizing our vision, especially by working with like-minded allies in the Music industry, the climate movement and the science community, government and civil society. That belief coincided with my view of the music industry, the risk-taking, the disruption, the continuous flow of new ideas, and my heartfelt belief that we had to work with other sectors to make real progress.

With a forum that included music friends and contemporaries like Alison Donald, Jamie Oborne, and Pete Tong, it was clear that EarthPercent understood the music industry.

With scientific experts and advisors including names like Professor Brian Cox, Dr. Tamsin Edwards of King’s College London (lead author of the 6th IPCC report) and Dr. Saleemul Huq – Director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development – it was clear that they understood the science.

By creating a simple funding mechanism that allowed companies to give a small percentage of their income to climate charities as a third party in their systems, it became clear that they were proposing an efficient and effective solution.

EarthPercent offered the right solutions.

The simple donation system ensured that these proceeds form a fund that is geared towards the most effective and effective programs that will be valued by the confidence of this amazing brain. It provided long-term stability of funding to individuals like Music Declares Emergency, Julie’s Bicycle, and others, allowing them to plan their work and focus on achieving results.

However, EarthPercent provided more than just an opportunity for the music industry to support charity, even if the results were positive.

The music business faces a business reality. As governments around the world commit to statutory net zero targets, it is imperative to innovate our practices to achieve emissions reductions. Here in the UK we have a net zero by 2050. Solutions and strategies to get there are now a necessity for all of us. The charities funded by EarthPercent will not only serve to save our consciences that we are “doing”.

You will actively develop the knowledge and understanding of how we all get there. Julie’s Bicycle’s work in this area has already done much to assess and combat CO2 emissions. Music Declares Emergency Acts bring music companies and artists together to share knowledge and develop innovative solutions for everything from manufacturing, packaging, distribution and merchandise to touring and event power and audience impact.

We also face a moral reality. The music business is global, and in the age of streaming, the stars of the present and future are increasingly no longer defined by territory. The climate emergency is a global emergency. The effects are already being felt catastrophically in the global south as well as in Australia and the USA.

Reports here in the UK of topsoil viability essential to continued food production, dire readings and the possibility of more global pandemics triggered by environmental degradation and degradation are no longer reserved for science fiction. For the music industry to play a leading role in responding, the greatest challenge facing humanity is my belief in music and in our industry.

We can and will change the world again, as we did before, and act as the standard bearers of a green economy that both maintains and preserves the things we love and value. As the music industry comes together with Music Declares Emergency this week to turn up the volume, EarthPercent is providing the industry with an immediate and effective way to play a full role in responding to the climate emergency.Music business worldwide

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