ESNS Editorial: Hit the road, just leave the van behind: Green Touring Support offers acts sustainable alternatives to touring Europe


Innovation often starts with a spark, and industry-leading progress often starts with bold, practical first steps. The time to change the music industry has come – to gear ourselves towards a greener future and commit to minimising our collective carbon footprint. ESNS launched Green Touring Support in 2022, an initiative that offers touring artists financial compensation to make more sustainable alternatives a reality. We talk to ESNS22 act and Green Touring Support frontrunners, the lo-fi Icelandic punk outfit with a fizzy pop twist BSÍ on touring Europe by train and the age-old axiom learning by doing.

Interview by Roxy Merrell

Concrete steps to change an industry

ESNS acknowledges the urgency of the climate crisis and aims to trailblaze the music industry towards a sustainable future. “ESNS is a platform for sharing knowledge and skills, where we aspire to grow awareness and inspire action,” affirms Ruud Berends, Head of ESNS Conference. Each year, the programme is curated to address all the most urgent sustainable topics – which covers everything from climate justice, innovation, circularity and the resilience of the industry. “We’ve addressed sustainability for years, but feel a growing urgency to underline our own action. We’re changing that now.” Green Touring Support, funded by the Eco Solidarity Tax, is testament to that.

Ditch the van and rent a backline on tour

Serving politically-minded punk sensibilities with a pop heart, BSÍ are based in Iceland’s capital Reykjavík, which means air travel is practically the only feasible way to leave the island and tour abroad. Acknowledging that limitation, bandmates and best friends Sigurlaug Thorarensen (drums & vocals) and Julius Pollux Rothlaender (bass guitar & toe-synths) expressed “we’ve been feeling the urge to find out how we can make touring more eco-friendly. As touring musicians we want to participate in a much-needed change and find ways to treat our lovely planet better and with more care. Standing by and sticking to the same old patterns isn't enough any more.”

As touring musicians we want to participate in a much-needed change. Standing by and sticking to the same old patterns isn't enough any more. – BSÍ

The carbon-footprint-minimising cornerstone of their new approach to touring, supported by Green Touring Support, was ditching the van and travelling by train and public transport. “As a band we use a drum kit and amps, we had to rent and organise a backline in each city which made touring more expensive that old fashioned van tours. ESNS Green Touring Support helped us with that as we toured Germany in May, but we’ve stuck to that concept since then – simply because it feels like a priority to us.”


Train journeys make for relaxing, scenic routes, but the approach also takes time, lots of planning and an ability to improvise – missing a train can mean getting creative. “The biggest challenge is definitely the luggage, merchandise and equipment situation. At times, it’s been very difficult and/or expensive to rent a backline locally.” When asked what the major takeaway is from the experience, and what the (near) future of greener touring could look like, Rothlaender divulged some home-grown insight: “Back home, all venues have their own backline and bands can easily walk or take the bus to concerts.”

Make sure to share your advice with us, so we can all make this a do-it-together effort and learn from each other! – BSÍ

Next to this, the band have made good on the axiom that change starts with yourself: They’ve been exploring CO2 compensation for Iceland-mainland flights, raising more awareness through their technical and catering riders and trying to encourage local promoters to evaluate how they could make their concerts more eco-friendly. When asked if they had any advice to other acts wanting to start making greener choices on road, Rothlaender exclaimed enthusiastically: “Just go and do it! And make sure to share your advice with us, so we can all make this a do-it-together effort and learn from each other!”

Sustainability at ESNS Conference

The perfect moment to reflect on the past year, the conference in January wants to lead the industry to impactful change. The program will take on the theme of sustainability – which is not limited to environmental sustainability but extends to socio-economic matters – by taking on innovative experiments, impact-driven partnerships and offering space for the exchange of knowledge in sustainable progress.