LOS ANGELES—Many brands and companies have used the shutdowns caused by the pandemic to reset their event strategies—rethinking old methods and introducing new concepts—with some putting sustainability front and center.
“After a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, we saw this as a perfect opportunity to consider and reimagine how we approach producing large-scale events—without having a negative environmental impact,” said Susan Mazo, Universal Music Group (UMG)’s executive vice president of corporate social responsibility, events, and special projects, and the executive producer of the company’s Grammy events. “We recognize that it is important for UMG to come up with a new model for events, so that sustainability is at the forefront of thought and planning for other industry events moving forward.”
During this year’s Grammy weekend in Los Angeles in early February, the entertainment company hosted its popular after-party—as well as an artist showcase—at Milk Studios, where it announced the recipient for the inaugural Universal Music Group x REVERB Amplifier Award, which recognizes artists who reduce their environmental impact and support nonprofit causes. Billie Eilish was selected to receive the award for her advocacy efforts toward sustainability and the environmental movement.
Since 2019, Eilish and REVERB—a nonprofit that teams up with musicians, festivals, and venues to make its concert events greener—have partnered to reduce her tours’ environmental footprint, engage her fans in climate action, and support nonprofit organizations and climate projects. Mazo said that “her influence extends beyond her fanbase to the broader artist and creative community.”
Inspired by Scandinavian and Japanese design, the event’s decor featured pieces made from discarded materials that production company Organized Matter reshaped and plastered using traditional plaster and lime.
“When it comes to repurposing materials, Scandinavian and Japanese design principles are a great starting point for creating a clean and functional aesthetic. For the artist showcase event, we opted for a light and airy color palette to make the space feel inviting and bright,” explained Krislyn Komarov, the creative director of Organized Matter, about why the production company leaned on those design concepts.
For the after-party, Komarov said that the team “played with darker tones and added sculptural elements to give the design more depth and complexity. By blending these two approaches, we were able to create a seamless and impactful design that embodied the beauty of minimalism and functionality.” She added that the approach allowed them to reduce waste and reuse elements in future designs.
“In our design process, we prioritize creating items that serve a purpose beyond the event itself. Not only does this reduce waste and promote sustainability, but it also allows us to contribute to the industry and our community in a meaningful way,” Komarov said. Several of the custom designs, such as the steel and modular sculptures used for floral displays, will be repurposed for future events.
Taking inspiration from the event, she said that Organized Matter has decided to offer its inventory as prop rentals, specifically designed for small companies such as florists and stylists. “This initiative not only allows the creative community to access a wider range of props and materials, but also promotes the reuse of existing items, reducing the need for new props and minimizing waste,” Komarov said. “By sharing our inventory, we are taking a significant step toward a circular economy, where materials are utilized for as long as possible.” The new service, called FLORAL RIG, is set to launch in late spring.
And even the award statue, created by Komarov and James Benn of Organized Matter, was eco-friendly. It was made from reclaimed concrete, with a coating that was made with slaked lime and crushed marble and colored with earth pigments.
Of course, the menu also matched the eco-friendly mission. Some of the 100% plant-based offerings included a French horn “scallop” crostini with French horn mushrooms, organic English peas, and micro beets and slow-braised chili with heirloom vegetables, Impossible Beef, black beans, and grilled corn from Bruce’s Gourmet Catering, along with Indonesian-inspired barbecue jackfruit lettuce wraps with rainbow veggie slaw and vegan street tacos with spicy carrot puree, jicama-lime slaw, and vegan guajillo crema from Whoa Nelly Catering.
When producing sustainable events, Komarov said that the biggest challenge “lies in the need for extensive planning, investment, and consideration for every aspect of the event to prioritize sustainable practices. This involves not only major elements like serving a meatless menu and partnering with composting companies, but also smaller details like avoiding single-use packaging and sourcing local ingredients.”
She added that “educating vendors, staff, and crew on sustainable practices remains an ongoing challenge. It requires a joint effort from the production company and the client to make special requests and for vendors to be open to rethinking and modifying their standard practices. Making sustainable practices, such as composting and recycling, a priority over convenience also requires continuous education and training of crew members to create intuitive practices.”
But Mazo isn’t deterred by the hurdles. She said that these two recent UMG flagship events will serve as a “blueprint that we can adapt for next year and for our other events throughout the year.” Adding that, “as technology continues to develop and evolve, we will continue to identify new innovations to integrate into events. For example, I’d love to have a fully solar-powered event in the not-too-distant future.”
Carpenting: Event Carpet Pros
Catering: Bruce’s Catering, Whoa Nelly Catering
Event Design & Production: Organized Matter
Draping: Rose Brand
Production: Bill Ferrell Co.
Rentals: Found Vintage Rentals, Town & Country Event Rentals
Sustainable Energy: Overdrive Energy Solutions
Valet: Chuck’s Parking Service
Venue: Milk Studios
Keep scrolling to see more from UMG’s Grammy events…