I want to show people not just how to be aware, but how to take action, we give them the tools to do that.
BLOND:ISH’s Vivie-Ann Bakos has seen a lot in the twelve years she’s been a DJ—but it was only recently that her perspective really changed. Since starting the sustainability initiative Bye Bye Plastic in 2018, a research and resource group intent on eliminating single-use plastic from the music industry, she says her newfound focus is shifting all of her conversations of late. “I have a much stronger connection with promoters and my community,” she says. “We have a common goal: We want to solve something. That brings us closer together.”
The goal is not a small one. In a multi-billion dollar industry that relies on touring and performances in front of mass audiences, in venues, and at festivals that rely on purchases now mostly made via chip-implanted wristbands in order to function, change seems next to impossible. But Bakos is confident that it’s not. With her team of eight, their approach is many-layered, yet simple—they do the research to vet specific solutions, which they then propose to promoters and venues to implement. One example: Last year, they worked with artists and agents to install a paragraph in their rider lists to let the promoters know that “Hey, this is an artist who really values the environment. We would love to be single-use-plastic-free,” she recalls. After just eight months, Bye Bye Plastic had over 1,500 DJs and agents using the eco-riders. After a social media push that began with the hashtag #MyEcoRider, that number grew to 2,500 and is slowly climbing (you can now follow its progress at #PlasticFreeParty). Prior to Dead & Co.’s announcement of their upcoming summer tour, for example, the band’s manager turned to Bye Bye Plastic as a resource for getting their venues to comply. “It is a huge step,” says Bakos, “because now the community and all the fans of the artists know and they also find it important. We’re using that to inspire the venues to make change.” The change is starting to show.
Bakos, who DJs gigs weekly all over the world, says she was inspired to begin the sustainability movement at the Warung Beach Club in Brazil after noticing the discrepancy between the “be present” mindset of so many of the attendees—enjoying music in a beautiful place—and the amount of single-use-plastic left behind. “We live in a bubble,” she says. “Even in our bubble, we say we don’t want plastic, but we’re hypocrites—you still see people getting takeaway cups.” Or, she adds, you’ll get a takeaway cup made of compostable material, but you’ll be left with nowhere to compost it when you’re finished. “It’s this clusterfuck because we are in transition right now,” she adds. “The innovations are coming with the materials, but there are no systems behind it to support them.” It’s up to local governments like Los Angeles’s, with whom Bakos and her team are in talks, to put those kinds of systems in place. In the music industry, Bakos says plastic wristbands have been a particularly difficult challenge. Most contain what’s called an RFID chip, which uses radio waves to transmit information and is, naturally, made of plastic. With the help of material scientists and the hope that it’s even possible, Bye Bye Plastic is working to find an alternative. “I want to show people not just how to be aware, but how to take action,” Bakos asserts. “We give them the tools to do that.”
Music has inspired Bakos, too. “The connection I feel [to
music] is so strong, I’m so passionate about it,” she says. Growing up in Canada with musical parents who DJed their own parties using an old school reel-to-reel, she remembers late-Sixties soul and disco as early influences—as well as the cultural progress that went along with them. “The same thing is happening now: crazy movements around connection and wanting change,” says Bakos. “I guess because I was inspired by the movements of the Sixties when I was young, I’m also doing that in my life now.” As a musician, it has had a lasting effect: “You’re constantly exploring how to use your music in a positive way.”
As if her sustainability efforts and her work as a full-time DJ weren’t enough, Bakos is keeping busy in other ways, too. After playing several shows in Rio during Carnival, her forthcoming BLOND:ISH Sunrise Jungle Remix of Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” is out on March 13 and she’ll be performing several times throughout the month, leading up to a headline show in NYC the first week of April. But by now, she’s forever committed to the sustainability cause. “Once you’re plugged in, once you’re really plugged in, things just keep happening,” she says. “You can manifest in real time. If your intention is pure and you work on it, it really is just like that.”