R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe has announced the release of the long-awaited Brian Eno-produced solo track, Future If Future. It’s the first commercially available 12″ record to be pressed on sustainable bioplastic instead of vinyl.
Stipe’s Future If Future was first teased in 2018 in support of the March for Our Lives rally in Washington D.C. The Brian Eno-produced track will be a split 12″ single with the singer-songwriter Beatie Wolfe’s Oh My Heart.
The track was released in support of Eno’s EarthPercent campaign aimed at leveraging the music industry as a tool in fighting the climate crisis. The single is being released on Bandcamp along with the bioplastic record, which was developed by Evolution Music. The British company is working to replace vinyl with renewable and non-fossil-fuel solutions.
“I’m thrilled to be working with EarthPercent and Evolution Music on this release, imagining positive innovation through action,” Stipe said in a statement. “Simply showing that this type of solution-based project is possible opens pathways to a brighter future.”
According to Evolution Music, about 180 million LPs are made from vinyl every year, which amounts to about 30,000 tons of PVC (polyvinyl chloride). The organization is working to bring sustainability into the industry, calling the pressing here “a genuinely revolutionary moment for both the music industry and record collectors,” the group said. “The solution uses circular economy principles to replace the harmful production and use of single-use plastics and minimize waste in the music industry.”
“We know it’s PVC, so there’s chlorine gases. There’s also dioxins,” Marc Carey, CEO of Evolution Music, said earlier this week. Greenpeace has dubbed PVC “the most environmentally damaging plastic.” But according to Carey many people are surprised to learn that making vinyl records is a toxic practice.
The goal, according to Carey, is to create an eco-friendly record that can replace vinyl for the entire industry. Developing the new record took four years.
“I want sustainable products in a 21st-century environment,” Carey said. “So, I had to form a new company and do it myself.”
EarthPercent has been working to green the music industry as a whole as well as working on climate justice issues including legal action and supporting policy changes.
“We’re honored to have been given these amazing tracks from an incredible array of artists to raise money for our planet,” a representative for EarthPercent said. “The fact this has also led to a historical world first commercial release on the BioPlastic 12″ with Evolution Music is beyond exciting. A huge thanks to all the artists taking part, and to Michael Stipe and Beatie Wolfe for being a part of this groundbreaking release. #nomusiconadeadplanet.”
Musicians have been taking steps to offset tours. American fashion label Tommy Hilfiger recently donated $1 million to help offset the environmental impact of Shawn Mendes’ world tour. Singer Billie Eilish also offset her tour and recently held a climate-themed event that included panels and presentations in the U.K. called Overheated.
“It’s been fantastic to join forces with EarthPercent on the environmental front and for this very special release with Michael Stipe,” Beatie Wolfe said. “I’m constantly thinking about how we can take the best of the old and best of the new, bridge the tangible and digital, and reclaim as much as we innovate and this new eco 12” feels like a perfect embodiment of this. I wrote ‘Oh My Heart’ as a cry for the planet and humanity and it was recently encoded in glass and included in the Global Music Vault in Svalbard to be preserved for 10,000 years. So I couldn’t think of a better way to have it tangibly out in the world now.”
The bioplastic is befitting for the Stipe track, which addresses the state of the planet. Stipe sings over heavy beats, “We’ve got the power/ Please don’t stare, we’re doing all we can.” “The future is ours,” he sings, to win out over “coal-hearted cowards.”
Five hundred copies of the record will be released this Friday with all funds going to support EarthPercent.