Radiohead

One of the significant differences between Radiohead’s 08/09 world tour and previous tours is that the band commissioned Best Foot Forward to investigate their carbon and ecological impacts. In response, the 08/09 tour has seen a significant commitment to cutting impacts in the key areas of: audience travel; freight; venues; energy; lighting. This case study examines audience travel, lighting and energy – but the online case study database carries information about all key areas.

Audience travel

The report made clear the huge impact of fans. In the US fan travel and consumption made up 86% of the Theatre tour 97% of the Amphitheatre tour’s footprint. In 08/09, fans were encouraged to consider their impacts:

  • The report findings were shared including compelling calculations of how to cut emissions. For example based on the US Amphitheatre tour:
  • If average car occupancy increased from 2.2 to 3, the whole tour’s overall CO2 output would be reduced by 22%.
  • If 10% of car users travelled by bus it would reduce CO2 emissions by 7%
  • The tour website hosted a carbon calculator for fans to work out their travel impacts – and the information was captured to improve Radiohead’s data quality and future emissions monitoring.
  • Location and public transport links were a much more significant factor when creating the tour route:
  • For the London concerts Victoria Park offered excellent public transport links (tube, overground rail and buses) 
  • The absence of car parking provided an added incentive to travel by public transport.
  • The secure bike park was used by 50 users per night (with other bikes parked in the vicinity).

Freight

Through careful planning, increasing sea freight and the use of duplicate systems in the US and Europe, the production team were able to reduce the amount of gear freighted by air from 20,000 to 1,000kg. Sea freight offers a 93% reduction in CO2 over air freighting.

Venue/Site

The band supported the introduction of ‘eco policies’ at venues, drawing up a top ten checklist of practical actions, and appointing a tour eco coordinator to liaise with venues on implementation. Venue environmental summaries were provided to fans from the band’s website. The Victoria Park concerts were a temporary structure on a Greenfield site, so the focus of the production team and promoter SJM was on ensuring that the site was returned to its original condition after the event, and that recycling and waste collection were maximised both in the audience areas and backstage. Cups could be returned for money towards concessions in the park.

Lighting

Radiohead used what they believe to be the first exclusively LED lighting touring system. The system used 140A 3phase (420A in total) when turned on fully, although LEDs rarely draw full power. Even when they are, it’s a fraction of traditional stage lighting demands.

Radiohead’s lighting system demonstrate how a forward-thinking band and production team can drive technological innovation: digital lighting company i-pix designed and produced a brand new fixture for Radiohead’s lighting designer Andi Watson to use on tour – within a demanding timescale of just 5 weeks, and the whole project came in within a budget which had initially been set for a conventional lighting system.

Alternative power

Using a LED system not only reduces power requirements, but also makes alternative power sources more viable, and the production team worked hard to source alternative non-combustible power supply for the tour. While sound requires a smaller load of power, the demand spikes are difficult to measure accurately – so the team concentrated on providing power for the lighting rig.

Initially they investigated solar powered batteries, but these were going to be too big and heavy for portable use for a show which required 200A 3ph output, 4.5hrs of autonomy at full load, and a component weight limit of 2,000kg. The alternative was a ‘big battery’ (made from 16x 2,000kg Battery strings running at 600v, into a pair of paralleled Statron UPS panels) that could charge up and then power the lighting and video on alternate nights. This system enables efficient use of generator capacity and reduces idling as it can cover low power demands during off peak usage then charge from the spare capacity of the generator during peak usage. Due to weight limits the battery was split across two trucks that also carried lighting and set for the show.

The system debuted at the London show, having charged up using festival generators at the Southside and Hurricane festivals in Germany several days prior. And it worked! The first night of the Victoria Park shows ran the lighting and video off the battery from load in, show, to load out.

In fact the only power issues at Victoria Park was with the waste oil biodiesel generators running the stage audio, which started to congeal with the dropping temperatures – the great London summer strikes again!

www.radiohead.com/themostgiganticflyingmouthforsometime
www.radiohead.com/deadairspace/index.php?a=310
www.bestfootforward.com