We were joined by Maddy Howell, who is a journalist for RockSound Magazine. This was our first face-to-face interview in Unit 1! We had some Kentish Pip and Dudda’s Tun Cider and met on a nice warm day in Hythe.
Let’s start with the environment, and the impact the music industry has on it. How important is this to you personally?
Very important. Being a journalist, it is always something I’ve thought about. As recently, we’ve been switching online a lot more. It’s something I’ve had to embrace. Magazines, as nice as they are being a physical thing you can hold, is a bit of a waste. The shift online has been a big thing for me, as I’ve been trying to push the magazine industry to go online into the “blogosphere”. It is something I feel is a no brainer!
Do you consider the carbon footprint when you look into online servers?
I do not, probably foolish I know!
It is a big thing, it is wonderful that we can get everything online. But, when you get to larger companies you find the large carbon footprint that follows. They’ve got more staff, more traffic, possible product. As much as someone may say they are carbon-neutral, there are all these other things. I’ve seen it myself, as in my day job I commute to London every day and spend most of my day on a train.
I worked in London until lockdown and you had people travelling in from all over the country. It was extremely pointless. Now we are seeing how many people can work from home. A lot of people are just travelling to sit in an office all day. So hopefully, it has opened up a lot of avenues for business recently. I hope it sticks around post COVID!
We look at the city, which is a great place for transport, but it is actually getting there that is a big issue. This is normally one of the main environmental impacts of live music too. How have you seen the reception of a life without it?
A lot of my friends are from the live music industry and it is somewhere I also worked in, as I did ticketing and events. It is completely shut down! It’s not even like there’s not a lot of work or something you can share with people. There is literally nothing! There are a few live stream gigs, but they don’t take a whole team to produce, the way it would have taken before. I’ve seen it impact a lot of people, but I am lucky, as a journalist I went straight back into that in the ‘new world’. A lot of people have had to pause their whole careers due to the fact that there is no events industry. We are almost being told to ‘re-train’, which is not viable for so many people. They’ve put their whole lives into doing something and then the next day they’re being told they can be something like an engineer. It is not how it works!
Recently, we saw the government campaign about the ballerina, who will need to change her career path due to the impact of Covid related restrictions. A big question. If you were in charge, what would you do to support people like her?
The thing is, I wouldn’t know. The government definitely needs to do more. I think there could be more funding. These are people’s livelihoods. So, there needs to be something in place. Whether it is socially distanced gigs, which can happen more than a small number of events dotted around the country. There needs to be stricter measures in place across the board, but with the second wave, it’s hard to say. Things can change from day to day.
Does this concern you?
For sure. Yesterday, I saw my first live music event in four months and I almost started crying. It was something I stumbled across, walking past the QuarterHouse in Folkestone, there was a little outdoor gig taking place. I only went out to walk the dog! I could hear something, I could hear music, and it was live!
That is amazing! Thinking back to experiencing live music, we saw The 1975 use Greta Thunburg’s speech at the beginning of their set. Do you think artists have a platform they should use, or should they not push these issues on people?
I think it goes both ways. I think they should be using their platform, but we shouldn’t be solely relying on artists and creatives to do the work. It should be the people in charge of doing the work. They can use their platform to raise ideas, but it almost gets to the point where the government are relying on people to do the work for them. You saw it with Marcus Rashford for the whole school dinner thing, and they applauded it, but that should be them! There needs to action first, then we can celebrate afterwards. I have a horrible feeling they’ll put all the bands together for an event and they will reward us with a clap, with no credit.
That is what we are about. Have you had any of these conversations with bands? Are people too scared to bring it up?
It depends. It is almost on a spectrum. On one side, there are some bands that make it their whole persona, who makes spreading the message their whole thing. But do it soooo much, they’re seen as a joke. Then, there are other bands who are trying to stay in the middle lane and have no message, which is almost as bad. A lot of people say don’t put politics into music. There should be a middle ground where you can infuse these messages and social issues into music and still deliver creativity, which is unique and not fully delivering one message or preachy.
There are few artists, like Coldplay, who won’t tour until they can do it completely carbon neutral. Billie Eilish has teamed up with Reverb, who are a non-profit organisation that work on reducing a tours carbon footprint. There are also a few festivals in France and Spain that have food tents, with proper cutlery and plates that they then wash up, to save on the waste. It is doable!
There are lots of examples of it being done, and we can see it actually been done, very well! There are a lot of people making excuses of ‘it is only being done in THIS country or in THAT music scene’ who are seen as “social justice warriors”. There are fans on your side who get what you’re trying to do, but to everyone else, you’re seen as a bit of an idiot. I think that’s what The 1975 suffer from quite a lot. I totally get what they’re doing, and so do a lot of my peers. But, if you showed them to others, especially older people, they’ll question why they’re playing some woman’s speech or think its too far. They don’t even try to accept change.