Interview with Reverb: A Green Rock Revolution

—by , August 29, 2007

Reverb“A lot of us are activists in rock star clothing,” Alanis Morissette opined a few years back, and the founders of an organization called Reverb have set out to prove her right. The organization was co-founded by Guster guitarist Adam Gardner (a Jersey native) and his wife Lauren Sullivan in 2004. Their purpose was to do as much as possible to remediate the impact that rock and roll tours have on the environment, and to educate the public and the music community on green issues.

To date, Reverb has formed alliances with artists such as John Mayer, Beastie Boys, Guster, Barenaked Ladies, Dave Matthews, The Fray, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Norah Jones, Crowded House and others. Their efforts have ranged from providing logistics for biodiesel fuel delivery to tour buses and trucks, to actually embedding Reverb staffers within tours to oversee the construction of an eco-village at each tour stop. The village provides space for local non-profit green organizations, as well as environmentally concerned national retailers, like Ben & Jerry’s and Stonyfield Farms, to dispense information to the audience.

Reverb has also worked with venue owners such as Live Nation to assist them in efforts to green concert facilities, including making backstage areas as close to carbon neutral as possible by the use of biodegradable materials in food service, as well as doing the actual recycling. They also review concert riders in artist contracts to be sure that they address environmental concerns. Volunteers fan out at each show to provide information about the organization and to request a $5 donation from concertgoers as a carbon offset fee to help reduce the environmental impact of their journey to the show.

When Lauren and Adam recognized the need to reduce the environmental impact of touring, they identified Kathy Kane, who is Bonnie Raitt’s manager, as a kindred spirit. Kane had founded the non-profit ARIA Foundation to service the music industry, and Raitt’s 2002 “Green Highway” tour served as an inspiration to the fledgling Reverb. They sought counsel from Kane and became one of the Foundation’s projects. The Foundation initially acted as Reverb’s non-profit umbrella, but Reverb has recently gained its own tax exempt status.

Guster had done quite a bit of touring with Canada’s Barenaked Ladies and there was a close bond between the bands. It seemed natural for Reverb to approach BNL’s Steven Page with their proposal to work on the band’s next tour. Page, who is an ardent environmental activist, readily accepted the idea, and Reverb was on its way.

Now that the organization is well established, they continue to approach artists to offer their services, but now artists and venues approach them as well. Reverb has an entire menu of services to offer, depending on the client’s interests and requirements.

Reverb, which is based in Portland, ME, is able to continue its work as a result of an “eco-fund.” Artists who work with the organization will typically include a small fee for Reverb in their ticket price. Additional funds are raised by auctioning off guitars that are contributed by Alvarez and First Act and by contributions from green businesses. The group hopes to expand their fundraising in the future by receiving grant money.

While it is admittedly impossible to determine with any certainty how much good these and similar efforts are doing for the planet, what is important is that rock fans are being provided with a real connection to the environmental community. With the dawning realization that the earth is in crisis, and that our own government is unwilling to do much about it, people will know where to turn if they want to be a part of the solution. As Bonnie Raitt told the New York Times, “A change is coming. Green Power is the way out of this mess.”

The challenge now is to spread this message beyond the fan base of the Reverb-affiliated bands who are a natural audience for the organization’s message to other segments of the music community, such as fans of hip hop and heavy metal.

To find out more about Reverb and how to help spread their message, visit reverbrock.org

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