How to Incorporate Sustainability and Activism into an Independent Music Career


(Hypebot) — Independent musicians Ayoni and Malin Pettersen talk about their experiences and their advice for leading a sustainable and involved musical career.

by Wednesdayand Nadeau of that of the orchard daily bark

The Orchard team recently participated in the SXSW panel titled “How do you talk to your audience about climate?” Speakers included two of our distributed artists, Ayoni (self-released) and Malin Pettersen (Jansen Records) as well as Tori Tsui and Julia Gentner from Bad Activist Collective. The conversation wasn’t your typical, tips and tricks for going green. Instead, this group of changemakers is all about that, how to influence change.

The conversation was honest and powerful. Topics also covered the unfortunate obstacles that often discourage public figures from taking a stand and speaking their truth. What if you are not financially able to spend more on eco-friendly options? As a woman, or a member of the black community or another underrepresented community, how do you make your point without the damaging effects of bias? How do you get people to care about all political backgrounds?

“Do what you can.”

The answer to all these questions: Do what you can. If you can afford to have your product made from recycled materials, do so. If you can sing about social justice and maybe a few people see a new perspective, sing it. If you have followers who can donate or sign petitions, spread the word.

Activism is NOT one size fits all. As Ayoni said in her chat, it’s important to, “Just be yourself and find what feels authentic to you. It can be very easy to think too much into inaction.

For those worried about negative comments, Malin Pettersen offers some helpful advice, saying, “I think the good you can do by using your voice outweighs the subscribers/audience who might not like the post. You might lose some, but you will also gain some. And the more engaged you are, the more engaged subscribers you will earn!”

So if you’re passionate about a cause, take it one step at a time. Activism can take many forms and small steps can be taken at each stage of the creative process. For instance:

write music

  • lyrics/message
  • Time spent in the studio – consider those traveling to and from the studio, plastic, goods or electricity wasted on location


  • Provide merchandising booth space to local organizations throughout the tour
  • Asking fans to bring empty reusable water bottles to shows rather than buying plastic. Ask instead to provide free water refills.
  • Hire local talent when possible, rather than flying crews long distances


  • Donate a percentage of merchandise sales or sales of a specific limited-edition item to an organization. It might even help boost sales.
  • Consider creating derivative products from recycled materials

Marketing Promotion

  • Consider local music video teams
  • Participate in panels, in person or online, to advocate for positive change
  • Amplify other artists, activists, organizations or brands doing great things

Finally, ask questions. Ask publicists, venues, festivals, studios, merchants, marketers how you can incorporate climate justice into your plans. Better yet, build a team with passions that match your own.

As musicians, a major strength can be in invoking empathy. Artists like Ayoni find inspiration in activism and find it almost impossible to separate your opinions and the truth from your art. In another chat with Ayoni, she explains how her favorite platform for activism is through music and meaningful conversation:

“I appreciate being able to write stories about issues that make it less possible for me to live a healthy life. I think humans yearn to feel connected and understood and sometimes storytelling is a powerful way to connect with others. Beyond my personal contributions to my artistic universe, I also think participating in conversations and community is important. Coming out of the pandemic, I was isolated for a long time, so I feel the loss more than ever. Being able to meet other people who challenge and expand my view of the world makes me a more responsible global citizen.


Another important takeaway from the conversation was knowing your options. By educating yourself and being aware of the alternatives, it will be much easier to ask these important questions. While many institutions’ default is “affordable”, there could be alternatives that are better for the environment and still don’t break the bank.

Here are some steps you can follow:

  • Follow other activists on social platforms
  • Engage with friends, artists and other activists to ask questions and learn from each other
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses and make room for others whenever necessary (be sure to fact check before sharing)

In a conversation with SXSW, Malin mentioned that you could just ask a supplier for eco-friendly fabrics for an event.

“Ask questions. There is nothing wrong with pushing venues, artists, festivals, etc. towards more climate-friendly solutions. Do a little research to find out what information you can share with the various stakeholders in order to to not just push an empty review.

Malin Pettersen

Another fascinating fact mentioned in the conversation was related to the questioning of sources and even language. For example, Tori mentioned that the language around “carbon emissions” was coined by big oil companies to shift the conversation from gas and oil to “carbon”.

To reiterate Ayoni’s and Malin’s points, it’s important not to get overwhelmed to the point of inaction and strive for perfection. Instead, do what you can and take it one step at a time. Build a community around the things that matter most to you and engage with the communities you want to be part of. The more of us who know our options, question the norm and demand change, the more impact we can have.


About Author

Comments are closed.