Climate change is making some outdoor shows hell this summer – Rolling Stone

It is hot. It not only feels hot, it actually is hot. This summer, 23 of our 32 outdoor shows were warmer than historical averages. We felt it, our crew felt it, our fans felt it and our bottom line felt it. Heatwaves in the US and Europe caused by climate change are having widespread adverse effects on the music touring industry.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, our contract required a 60-minute performance. Twenty minutes into the set we made the decision that it was no longer safe to perform. Playing music in 90+ degree weather under a tin roof made the stage feel like 105, but that wasn’t even remotely the sweatiest experience. The physical exertion of performing in Phoenix in the 107 degree heat was almost unbearable (although it was a dry heat).

While we (the band) have to perform for a few hours every night, our crew wakes up at 7am and faces the heat and sun for up to 18 hours a day.

At 10 AJR concerts this year, the structure of the venues required fans to wait anywhere from one to four hours outside in the heat to enter the venue. In Salt Lake City, I took a golf cart and brought bottled water to the parched crowd while they waited in line. Definitely not the most sustainable solution, but for now it was better than more fans swooning.

Despite this, at least 10 of our fans have collapsed this summer due to heat stress, more than on any tour we’ve been on. AJR is not alone in this. Rosalía interrupted a concert to ensure fans who had fainted were out of danger, Eddie Vedder suffered a neck injury from singing through a heat wave and Carlos Santana collapsed mid-sentence from heat exhaustion. That means more paramedics on site, more security, more staff distributing water bottles. It is an additional expense that we are happy to help pay for; I’m proud to say that at AJR we address our impact on tour regardless of financial loss

But other acts — and other promoters — might not feel that way. And business pressures caused by climate change are increasing.

Adam Met hands out bottles of water to fans before a show in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Austin Roa

Merchandise can be a big profit center, but sales aren’t spared the effects of the heat either. Some artists sell towels to lay on, battery-powered fans to cool you down, and reusable water bottles, in keeping with the sustainability theme. But for many artists, the best-selling items are t-shirts and sweatshirts. On AJR’s (and almost every other artist’s) tour, there is a significant price difference between the two because of the cost of the merchandise itself. Sweatshirts are much more expensive and fetch more money.

At almost every one of these warmer concerts, the percentage of sweatshirt revenue went down and the percentage of t-shirt revenue went up. It makes perfect sense: hotter weather means fewer clothes. Fewer sweatshirts mean less money for the band, the promoter and the venue. Our merchandise sales throughout the tour were seven percent below average. Almost all of the loss came from cities that were exceptionally hot.

For us, the physical hardships are just as daunting as the financial ones. Organizers and venues are feeling the financial impact more than the physical ones, but that should be enough to start taking action on climate change. For starters, that means focusing on renewable energy to power venues, reduce waste, and sell locally-sourced food and drink.

This might actually be the coldest summer of the rest of our lives. We need industry-wide standards unless everyone wants fans, crews, bands and their bottom line to be even more impacted by the effects of climate change.

Adam Met is the bassist for multi-platinum band AJR, a PhD in human rights and sustainable development, and executive director of climate research and action organization Planet Reimagined. This article was made possible by research and analysis by Planet Reimagined Research Associate Jack Dimmock.

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