Backstage with Tanner Watt

Backstage With Tanner Watt
Backstage with Tanner Watt

In recent years, as the effects of climate change continues to intensify, there has been a growing number of musicians who are “greening” up their tours in their acknowledgement to the growing impact of touring on the environment.

Artists such as Billie Eilish and Maroon 5 have been actively making their tours more sustainable by doing things such as banning venues from giving out plastic straws and requesting locally grown catering. Working with these artists to reduce the environmental impact of their tours is non-profit organisation, Reverb.

Reverb harnesses the power of music to inspire millions of music lovers and music makers to take part in tackling today’s most pressing environmental and social issues. Reverb work with not only musicians, but also festivals and venues to green their concert events while engaging fans face-to-face at shows to take environmental and social action.

This week we sat down with Tanner Watt, Director of Partnerships and Development at Reverb, where he tells us a little more about the pioneering work going on in the music industry and the importance of protecting our environment and recognising the real impact of climate change.

Are there any innovations in the industry that you think will drastically impact the green touring movement?

This is a tricky question to answer, but I will do my best. There are many new technologies that COULD impact the touring industry IF adopted by venues. That said, new technology is not always a simple drop-in solution and the tech needs to work with the existing infrastructure and services available to the venue. To me, the more exciting movement I have seen in the industry (pre shutdown) is the consideration of new programs and practices when venues are being built or being upgraded. The inclusion of reusable drinkware at many new venues and other efforts to minimize not only single-use plastic but single-use waste in general are very exciting. Also the policy shift of allowing fans to bring empty reusables into venues and providing them access to drinking water filling stations that many venues are adopting, makes summer shows (especially) safer and by nature reduce single-use waste.

If you were granted one wish that would help green up the touring industry and reduce environmental impact, what would it be?

To be honest, if I had one wish for a greener future in the Live Music Space it would be for the industry as a whole to truly consider the importance of protecting our environment and the importance of recognizing climate change is a real problem. If we had more folks that recognized this we would see less argument over the costs (financially) of the solutions and more discussion of the costs of NOT implementing these programs.

Touring can often have a ripple effect on local communities. How can venues ensure they are promoting sustainability within communities?

Lead by example and create REAL partnerships with the community. In my experience the venues that puts the right foot forward to put eco-conscious programs (that are fun and positive to fans) in place see a very positive response from fans. Also, by making these efforts benefit the community and not just the company that owns the venue can go a long way. A great example is the partnership REVERB has with the Xfinity Center outside of Boston, MA. The venue is a Live Nation property and seats nearly 20K. REVERB and the venue partnered to put in place the #rocknrefill program where fans can make a donation and receive a custom Xfinity Center Nalgene bottle to use at the show with free water stations (and bring back to future shows) and the dollars raised support a local Food Bank in the community. Fans create less single-use plastic waste at the shows and the venue contributes dollars to the folks who need it most in the community. Win win.

Can you share some examples of how the artists you are working with are driving change within the touring industry? Do you think artists and venues are beginning to take more action and responsibility?

Over the nearly 9 years I have been working with REVERB I have absolutely seen more artists and venues stepping up and taking action to limit their impact on the planet and to encourage the venues they visit to do the same. For longer than I have been with REVERB artists like Jack Johnson have been leading the charge and pushing venues and fans to consider their impact on the environment and make simple (and usually fun) changes to their behavior to reduce their impact. In more recent years artists like Billie Eilish, Shawn Mendes and The 1975 have joined REVERB's efforts and are engaging their fans to take action for the environment. Seeing a shift from the artists who you might expect (Jack Johnson is a it makes sense he wants to protect our oceans etc.) to some of the biggest artists in mainstream music championing the cause of protecting our planet and our future and encouraging their fans to do the same is proof enough for me.

Do you think fans and visitors should also play their part in driving change too? If so, what advice would you give to fans wanting to do this?

Absolutely yes! Artists and the venues they play at exist because fans buy tickets. As a music fan choose to put your money toward the venues that are taking steps to lessen their negative impact. If a venue won't let you bring a reusable water bottle into the show...maybe consider buying a ticket to a show at a different venue and letting the first venue know (email etc.) that you are choosing NOT to purchase a ticket for this reason. When something hits a venue in the pocketbook...eventually the venue will make a change. Use your purchasing power to support the businesses YOU feel are doing it right.

First gig, last gig, fav gig?

Working for REVERB has given me SO many amazing opportunities and experiences. My first real GIG with REVERB was on the Campus Consciousness Tour featuring J.Cole. The tour visited colleges all over the east coast of the US and REVERB created a Eco-Village at every show to connect with fans and encourage positive action. Great artist, great music and great fans. Best first tour I could imagine being a part of...and the first time I ever tried cognac! As far as my favorite tour...I would have to say Jack Johnson. In addition to my role as Director of Partnership at REVERB, I also lead all of the greening and fan engagement efforts on Jack Johnson's World Tour. Every 2-3 years when Jack and the band head out on the road I lead a team of 2-3 REVERB staff. Our team is in charge of all of the backstage greening efforts as well as REVERB's largest Eco-Village effort to date. We coordinate 8-10 local Non-Profit groups and 25 volunteers at every show and work with Jack and the Johnson Ohana Foundation and All At Once to fundraise and incentivize fan and community support for every one of the NPO partners. I am truly blessed to be a part of REVERB's and Jack's teams.

Can you name a song that can instantly boost your mood? (and why)

Matthew Wilder - Break My Stride 1983 (it's bad-good I know...but it gets me going!)

And finally… can you share an all-time favourite song/ a song that means a lot to you so we can add it to our YTL Arena Backstage Pass playlist?

All time favorite is a BIG ask...I have so many...For this purpose I will go with Baby Huey and the Babysitters - Mighty Mighty 1971. Baby Huey and that whole record are one of my favorites and Mighty Mighty is a great representation of Baby Huey. Not well known...but he should've been.