10 February 2008

Jack Johnson Leading the Way: The Environmental Initiative in Music and Entertainment

Musician Jack Johnson has most notably been linked to his relaxing fireside melodies and surfer heritage, but now he can add one more attribute to that list: environmental entrepreneur. Last summer, Johnson and his team completed work on a fully solar-powered recording studio they called The Plastic Plant, which housed the complete production of his new album, Sleep Through The Static, released this week. Bamboo stalks create the floorboards and the walls are insulated with recycled blue jeans. During the building process there were no major mishaps or roadblocks. When asked about the productivity of the new studio, the only disparity Johnson (pictured left recording in the studio) could note is that, "it feels nice to use the solar-powered studio, but there’s no difference when you’re inside." The misconception is that converting to a more environmentally friendly lifestyle will be more expensive and time-consuming, but the limited funds of the indie-labeled, simple-living Johnson should help prove otherwise.

So far a relatively small number of entertainment sources have employed eco-friendly efforts, but those who have have seen incredible results already. The Philadelphia Eagles were the first major sports team to start a green initiative back in 2003, introducing solar panels and more trees and shrubbery to their home stadium (among other things), and a spokesperson for environmental organization GreenMark (which has since worked with the Eagles, professional football teams, and similar franchises) recently said that, "“If we do it right, [going green] should not cost any more money than it normally would,” continuing, “We can leverage commercial investments into green events the same way we’re doing elsewhere in sports because there’s a payback in the companies that want to align with us.” Meaning, companies that pay for normal advertising are willing (and probably more likely) to invest in a landmark and innovative idea. There is risk involved since this is setting precedent and no one knows for certain how great the financial reward will be, but there is risk in all aspects of business, and it is better to take that step in a positive direction that will help the environment instead of the negative trend of wasting energy that we have become accustomed to in the American society. Entertainment companies should not look at this change as a detriment, but as an asset since they will produce the same (or even better) quality product for equal or lesser value. As the concept becomes more widespread “Green building materials will become less expensive to produce and last longer,” the GreenMark spokesperson said, thereby essentially creating more bang for their buck.

Following L.E.E.D (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) regulations, creating more eco-friendly studios, stadiums, and venues would not only cost less to build, but less to run and maintain as well. L.E.E.D buildings use less energy and water, and for artists who are continually rushed to finish an album because of the high price of studio time can now begin to breathe a little easier and slow down the recording process. Record companies are already losing money due to illegal file-sharing, so the smart solution would be to cut as many unnecessary expenditures as possible so that the total loss is not as drastic as it has been. Another way to cut cost and benefit the environment is to continually support a transition to digital music as opposed to physical disc production. While it is not a perfect solution, it is easier, more technologically advanced, and cost effective as the price of printing discs and record store overhead are no longer necessary.

In terms of an entertainer's fan base, not only will they not lose fans due to their eco-conversion, but are more likely to gain an increasing number of supporters. On July 7, 2007 Former President Al Gore brought together 150 musical acts for Live Earth (pictured right), a benefit concert to raise awareness about global warming and the energy crisis. The event was broadcast to over 30 million people worldwide through television and online media, so not only was it an opportunity to raise awareness, but it was great promotion for all the artists and bands that participated. It exposed them to various new audiences and presented them as leaders in the global crusade against environmental abuse. While some say the event added to the problem, seeing as many artists took private jets to perform at the concerts, the overall good they were doing i raising awareness far outweighed the effects of their carbon emissions. Entertainment media like television and radio often forget how extremely powerful and persuasive they are. Instead of simply making artists like Justin Timberlake or Gwen Stefani pimp products for companies such as McDonald's or Hewlett-Packard, why not have them take on a fresh initiative while still working with those heavy investors? The New York Times reports that, "'McDonald's has been flailing for years because it's having trouble getting a handle on an authentic story for the company at a time when customers are looking for authenticity,' said David Altschul, president at Character, a consulting company in Portland, Ore., that specializes in creating and reviving brand characters." With the successes of the film An Inconvenient Truth and the aforementioned Live Earth, it would be in McDonald's and other corporation's best interest to join forces with the conservation effort. After the turmoil of the Bush administration, studies have shown that people want change, and it is up to world leaders (which includes entertainment media and other big corporations) to help facilitate those efforts.

In the end, Jack Johnson does not appear to be some tree-hugging health nut, but most likely a smart businessman and a concerned citizen of the world. We have the technology to change the way we use ad produce energy, but it is all a matter of who will take the first steps in the pursuit of change and progress. As Johnson stated, "It’s more just a thing of, 'Why not?' We got this new office, so why not put solar panels on the roof? Why not use recycled blue jeans for the insulation?" It may be difficult in the beginning given our dependence on oil and other carbon burning resources, but in the grand scheme of things it does not take a lot of effort to make a big change that is beneficial for both the on-going pursuit of capitalism and most importantly--Mother Earth.

1 comment:

AKM said...

First off, I want to praise you on your unique topic and title. I think it is great that you are so interested in social causes and making a difference in the world. Your title of your blog is clever and interesting. I think your blog and the topic are extremely appealing to a vast audience; one who is interested in social movements and making the world a better place and also to an audience who enjoys music. Your blog truly has something for everyone.

Your first post was extremely interesting and well thought out. You wrote on something that I can almost guarantee, many were unaware of. I am and have been for a while, a huge Jack Johnson fan and did not know that Johnson recorded his whole album in a energy efficient studio. I think it is great that you get to inform and educate so many through your post. By writing about topics, which few people know, you can make your readers more socially aware and conscious to your issues, which you believe in.

Upon reading your post, I noticed that you have many links. You did a great job "linking" and choose to highlight and connect important things, such as your link to GreenMark and L.E.E.D. By doing this, you allow readers to learn about certain organizations and issues to further understand your cause and post. Your images, colors and layout of your blog are all excellent as well.

Your style of writing is very sophisticated and like I said before, I throughly enjoyed reading your blog. The use of quotes and links to further enhance your arguments was done very well. Your thesis is also very well written. You present both sides to the argument, that it is more expensive and time consuming and that Johnson can prove otherwise. I enjoyed how you spoke about other efforts to "go green" such as the Philadelphia Eagles. I agree with you about the power of celebrity endorsers and feel that more celebrities can help to fight this cause. Your post was well thought out and very well written, I honestly have nothing negative to say. Great job!

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