Solar-powered mobile music studio hits Glasgow’s streets

12 June 2024


A unique solar-powered mobile music recording and live production studio called the Phonoautobothy will power a number of music events in Scotland’s largest city.

Built using upcycled materials by the Idlefield Art Lab collective from Canada, the Phonoautobothy aims to showcase sustainable power generation for live and recorded music while engaging local communities around Glasgow’s ambitious net-zero goals.

Live music festivals and outdoor performances traditionally rely on polluting diesel generators.

The Phonoautobothy is an entirely solar-powered recording studio capable of producing high-quality recordings and powering live performances off-grid. It will appear at events like WestFest, the Belle & Sebastian Weekender Festival, and Doors Open Days from June through September, as well as workshops at inclusive arts charity Beatroute Arts.

“Although I first created a mobile solar powered recording studio out of necessity during the pandemic on my family farm,” says Jake Nicoll of Idlefield Art Lab, “untethering recording technology from the grid has led to many fruitful collaborations and exciting possibilities beyond my own work as an engineer. We at Idlefield look forward to seeing the ways the Phonoautobothy will be activated in Scotland.”

Professor Matt Brennan and Dr Graeme Hunt, both based at the University of Glasgow, are leading on a groundbreaking ‘Dear Green Music Scene’ project, working together with Idlefield Art Lab on the Phonoautobothy.

Professor Brennan said: “As a UNESCO City of Music with a rich musical identity, Glasgow’s famous live music scene provides the perfect catalyst to communicate and mobilise low-carbon behaviours across the city.

“The Phonoautobothy embodies our mission to drive environmental transition through dynamic creative interventions.”

“Glasgow is world-famous for its incredible live music scene, but the diesel generators frequently required for outdoor events are bad for the environment,” said Dr Graeme Hunt of the University’s James Watt School of Engineering. “The Phonoautobothy demonstrates that renewable energy can power even small-scale music productions and festivals. We’re excited to bring the Phonoautobothy to communities across the city.”

In addition to providing a solar-powered mobile music studio, the project will research how the city’s cultural sector can influence attitudes and drive environmental transition within local communities. The project also strengthens ongoing collaborations between researchers at the university and partner organisations such as Glasgow Life and Creative Carbon Scotland.

Dr Inge Sorensen, who has been looking at how to make film and TV making in Scotland more environmentally sustainable, said the Phonoautobothy has applications beyond music: “The film and TV industry like music industry relies on carbon-intensive infrastructure network with significant overlap to the music sector. We now have an opportunity to help inspire industry leaders, audiences and shift behaviours around sustainability.”

By monitoring energy usage and collecting survey data, the team hopes to test the viability of solar over diesel power for smaller events. The research could help event organizers adopt more sustainable practices.

Glasgow aims to become net-zero by 2030. The Phonoautobothy project aligns with that goal while supporting local artists and community organisations.

Learn more here:

Book your tickets for the Dear Green Music Scene Festival on 16 June 2024.