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How Solar Power Will Help Music Scenes
by Alex Cosper (9/8/14)

Music scenes rely on electricity even though there are creative ways to present acoustic shows that do not require any electric power at all. Coffeehouses, for example, do not necessarily need sound systems to showcase acoustic shows. Singers with guitars can also walk around street fairs and play for small groups of people at a time within a large crowd. Playing music at a house party also does not really require electric power as long as the musicians play and sing well. Sound systems have only been around since the early 1900s, so it's only really been the past century in which humans have enjoyed loud amplified music.

But usually the bigger crowd, the more amplification is needed for everyone to hear the music. In that sense, music scenes depend on venues with sound systems or at least electric capacity. Ideal places for local music shows such as beaches, rivers, parks and mountain tops rarely have electric outlets where bands can plug in.

The idea of the anytime anywhere concert can be accomplished either by all acoustic shows or electric shows powered by portable generators. Unfortunately, the available choices for portable generators tend to be powered by diesel or gas, both of which are harmful to the environment. Clean solar energy from natural sunlight, however, is a fast rising industry and there is now equipment that has caught up with the dream for the eco-friendly anytime anywhere concert. The sun's energy can even be stored in batteries for night use. There have been DIY solutions in which DJs and bands have built their own solar panels to power small events.

There is also a portable 20 kilowatt solar generator called the DC Solar Solutions Model SCT20 that will be used to power the "Destination Moon" festival in New York in 2015. This generator is 25 feet long and six feet tall, but as solar technology improves, which has been the trend every decade, the amount of panels and equipment space needed to provide sufficient power will continue to shrink. It's just like how today's smartphones are much more powerful than last century's giant mainframe computers. The future of solar promises to bring us many useful portable devices that already exist, but will become more powerful.

If indie musicians can break away from traditional venues to create their own venues and festivals, then the main hassles to get past may involve getting permits and promoting the shows. The goal should not be to run local music venues out of business, but for local musicians to empower themselves so that they don't have to rely on establishments and compete with other bands just to get a gig. The way the system currently works is there are not enough venues in most cities and towns to accommodate the number of acts that want to play live. The result becomes local scenes that are compromised in which venues favor their musician friends or sometimes pay to play situations, which isn't fair to talent. Otherwise, many up and coming musicians are forced to build their followings on low key open mic nights or other free situations.

For many people, solar energy doesn't even exist, as mainstream media has been very slow and shy at reporting on its rapid development. But incredible innovations have been materializing frequently in the first few decades of the 21st century partly due to environmentalists and investors coming together to fight pollution and high fossil fuel costs. The same thing can happen for local music scenes to empower musicians. All it would take to ignite eco-friendly anytime anywhere concerts across the world would be investors in portable solar generators in each community to rent out their equipment since most musicians probably won't be needing the generators all the time.

The same idea can be applied to DJs who throw eco-friendly anytime anywhere parties that don't rely on specific venues. One other issue that this concept presents is that venues typically pay for ASCAP/BMI fees, which are the royalties paid to songwriters for performance of their songs. In a mobile venue situation, the presenter of the event would be responsible for paying these royalties. But no royalties would need to be paid if the concert were all local acts that agreed to perform their own originals without requiring the presenter to pay royalties.

The eco-friendly anytime anywhere concert could also be a festival, like Destination Moon, that promotes higher awareness of environmental issues. Ideally, this type of concert could run at minimal costs. The smaller the crowd the more likely the costs would be close to zero. Bigger crowds usually require security and permits, which is where costs begin to affect ticket prices. But we are finally starting to see opportunities that empower local musicians in ways that the artists can control events without going through venue owners or polluters.

One of the most compelling recent developments in solar energy is the announcement by CSIRO in Australia that its researchers are working on solar ink, which can create printable solar panels, which will be another key to portable solar power. Another amazing solar development is called Betaray, a giant crystal marble that concentrates both sunlight and moonlight up to 10,000 times onto smaller panels with 35 percent more efficiency than current conventional solar panels. This standalone solar generator is the creation of German architect Andre Broessel. For people who care about the environment, which is a growing movement, the seeds to a brighter future have been planted.

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