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Live music fans care about climate. Let’s help them act.

By Guest Author on June 25, 2024

Authored by: Li-Ya Mar, Ph.D. and Caleb Johnson

A recent study has found that live music fans care about climate change and are likely to take action if their favorite artist asks. How can we mobilise fans and transform climate awareness into climate action? Whether you’re a fan or an artist, we have some of the answers. 

You may not realise it, but Taylor Swift may be the best thing that’s happened to voter registration in the US this decade. Last September, after she encouraged her followers to sign up to vote, saw its biggest spike in years as thousands of Swifties became soon-to-be voters. “I’ve heard you raise your voices,” she wrote to her fans. “And I know how powerful they are.” 

But exactly how powerful can fans be? 

Political science research suggests that if 3.5% of people mobilise around an issue, major change happens. That would be more than 11.5 million Americans and more than 2.3 million British people participating in climate action. Every year, 250 million people attend concerts in the US, and more than 37 million attend live music events in the UK. So how can the music industry and artists get us where we need to be? 

The latest research, led by Planet Reimagined with collaboration from Climate Outreach, supports this call to music artists: ‘Your fans care about climate change and want to act. Don’t be shy about inviting them.’ 

A 2022 study by researchers at the University of Glasgow shows that music fans are more likely to be concerned about climate change than the general population. Our study found something similar. Seventy-two percent of concert goers in the US are worried about climate change and 78% of them are already taking action, from talking to family and friends about climate change to contacting elected officials. This is exciting. It shows that there are tremendous opportunities in live music spaces to mobilise many for action. 

Artists, make it happen!

Based on our research, here are three key recommendations for what music artists should do to encourage climate action:

Speak to Fans Directly.

Many artists like Coldplay and Billie Eilish are making their tour more sustainable by lowering their own tour emissions and encouraging fans to use public transport. These are all great. But the game changer could be to speak directly to fans from the stage, whether it is a brief conversation between two songs or a pre-show video. The findings show that 70% of fans do not oppose artists using their platform to speak up; 53% say they should. In fact, 40% of fans would see artists speaking up as more inspiring. 

Be themselves.

Artists don’t need to worry about sounding like a climate scientist or a politician. When speaking to fans about climate change, artists should use their own voice and personal experiences to help fans connect their passion for the music with the climate cause. Instead of trying to explain the science around climate change, tell their own story. It helps fans connect what they love about the artist to why they are speaking up. Artists can share why climate change matters to them, how it has impacted their life, and what actions they’re taking to make a difference. Use positive language to help fans see the tangible solutions we have and the better future we can build together.   

We found that when artists share how they take action, fans may be more likely to get involved. Seventy-three percent of fans who care about climate change are likely to talk to their family and friends about it, 68% would sign a petition, 60% would vote based on climate issues, and 42% would contact government officials when an artist asks them to get involved. 

It’s also like saying, “I care about this issue, but I can’t fix it alone. Let’s do it together!” Plus, many people simply don’t know what to do, so by sharing the “how-to,” artists can help fans see themselves take action.

Focus on Taking Meaningful Action.

The best way to mobilise people is to show them what they can do. Artists should encourage fans to take civic and social actions, instead of just making personal lifestyle changes. Personal lifestyle changes can be useful as the beginning steps, but what we need right now is action that brings about policy change. Local climate groups offer opportunities in your fans’ own communities, where fans can find tangible actions that can make their immediate community a better place. 

After Taylor Swift broke the voter registration records with one simple Instagram story, many climate advocates joked, “Can we get Taylor Swift to fall in love with a climate scientist?” 

Much as we like a good love story from Taylor Swift, what we really need is for more and more music artists to speak directly to fans and invite them to act for a better future. 

With elections in more than 60 countries this year, we need some of the most beloved voices in our culture to help amplify the climate movement – lead with hope, highlight solutions, and invite millions into action. And artists can get us there. 

Author Bios

Li-Ya Mar

Li-Ya is a Climate Active Fellow at Planet Reimagined. She’s an educator and climate organizer in the US. With a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, she has taught Mandarin in public universities for 13 years, empowering students from diverse and underserved communities and building bridges across cultures. She now teaches at Portland State University and Portland Community College in the State of Oregon. She is a Climate Reality Leader who has shared the stage with Vice President Gore and organized volunteers in Dallas, Texas and Portland, Oregon. She is committed to advancing climate and social justice through advocacy and effective and relatable storytelling.

Caleb Johnson

Caleb Johnson is a Climate Active Fellow at Planet Reimagined. He’s an educator and musician. He holds a Master’s in International Relations from the Institut Barcelona Estudis Internacionals and a Master’s in Leadership Studies from Vanguard University.  In 2017, Caleb joined the fight against educational inequity with Teach for America, and earned a Teacher of the Year award for his exemplary public service and student outcomes in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His experience as a Music Director in religious spaces provides a unique insight into the practice of harnessing the power of collective musical experiences to actualize change.

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