When we think about the sectors that are most responsible for climate change, the music industry doesn’t naturally spring to mind. Maybe it’s because Greta hasn’t called it out yet… but the industry also plays a major part in the demise of our environment. Artists may hold the mic a lot when it comes to speaking about societal and environmental issues, but the lack of sustainability is deeply stitched into every corner of the biz and cannot solely be solved through conversation.
There are two major ways that the scene contributes to the environment:
We believe that this can be further broken down into 4 sections of the industry that contribute to the negative impact on the environment:
An essential part of any Musician / DJ’s road to success is being able to tour around the world, a chance to grow their following, spread their sound and discover themselves as artists. However, this vital element of the career does come with its environmental issues…
“Live music produces 405,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK every year, while the average touring DJ emits 35 tonnes of CO2 a year … that's 17 times higher than the personal carbon allowance…”
That’s a hell of a lot of carbon for solo performers to be emitting. Artists have started conversations on stopping touring all together for this reason. Perhaps it would be a chance for local musicians and DJs to gain the spotlight without being overshadowed by venues booking international talent. But feasibly; the next steps must incorporate access to peoples favourite acts, to enable the art form to continue flourishing. Established Musicians and DJs carry a huge, almost religious following, restrictions on access would create an even bigger class divide between those who can and those who can’t afford to see their favourite acts. So, stopping touring altogether really doesn’t seem fair on anyone.
However, there are ways to eliminate greenhouse gasses when touring — and infamous Bristol Trip Hop collective, Massive Attack (https://www.massiveattack.co.uk/) have taken a leap of faith in addressing the music industries’ contribution to the environment. In 2019, they collaborated with the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research to report on live music and make recommendations for decarbonisation. They made a short film on this and worked with the city of Liverpool to trial potential future events that focus on greener facilities. Together they identified key areas where CO2 emissions in the music sector are generated and produced a road map to implement sustainability. Many routes were outlined and they identified some realistic goals including; the immediate elimination of private jet use, switching to electric transportation for ticket holders, phasing out diesel generators at festivals, and implementing “plug and play models for venues,” (which would reduce the burden of transporting gear), just to name a few. Massive Attack ended their plan with communicating that:
“The challenge therefore is to avoid more pledges, promises and greenwashing headlines and instead embrace seismic change.”
It’s a wonderful thing that such an established band is able to bring light to sustainable possibilities in the industry, however eco-friendly choices are often more expensive and can be a less viable option for smaller artists who are paving their way on shoestring budgets! Sustainable practices will not be implemented efficiently if artists are having to choose between their pay cheque and protecting the environment.
Venues and riders also play a role, Bye Bye Plastic (https://www.byebyeplastic.life/) is an organisation that are doing big things to combat this very problem. They encourage artists to opt in for ‘eco-riders’ which exclude all single use plastics.. They have a network of hundreds of big names who have opted in and are sending a message to the world that there’s no place for single use plastics in the music industry. It would be great to take this further and request that venues do the same and eliminate any throwaway polymers from their stock lists.
2. Consuming Music
Unfortunately, consuming music seems to be a bit of a catch 22… There are 3 major ways we listen to music and some are past their sell by date.
The world’s fling with CD's peaked for 17 years, and over 600 billion were made just to be sitting in your attic in the years to come. That’s where Revive Innovations come in. We are addressing this massive problem with plastic waste by creating our own material named RE-CD, which is made from 100% waste CDs. We give new life to this tired tech, and create beautifully unique and luxury furniture and other exciting bespoke products out of our RE-CD material.
We collect the waste CDs and produce our material in house, but we don’t just stop there… implementing a circular economy that ensures all our products can be returned back to us for further repurposing and our offcuts are re-used to make more recycled materials. We also offer carbon offsetting on all products and use local suppliers to reduce our carbon footprint.
We are obviously a small part of the solution, but companies like us really help to make a dent in the colossal mass of plastic waste the music industry produces. You can help us to reduce this problem simply by purchasing our ecologically crafted products.
The death of the CD seemed to activate the rebirth of vinyl. Are our beloved plant-based, record crate-diggers just seemingly eco-conscious due to vintage knitwear and cycle to work schemes?! It must not be overlooked that
“Records are made of PVC, which comes from refined oil and can take up to 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill”
With the packaging impact added on top of this, a new solution is needed! In steps The Green Vinyl Records project, (https://greenvinylrecords.com/) a collaboration between 8 Dutch companies..
Their Goal: "To reduce the amount of energy and waste within the vinyl record manufacturing process. This by developing durable plastics and clean, low-energy injection moulding processes."
Is a controversial one. Yes, it eliminates the production of plastic, which is good news? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, as streaming comes with its own carbon footprint. The storing and transmitting of digital files generates between ‘200 million kg and over 350 million kg’ of greenhouse gasses. What’s more, this estimate was from 2016. Add with the growth of music streaming 6 years on, you can imagine how much more greenhouse gasses have been emitted. It was further found that:
‘A viral song has a bigger annual carbon footprint than 500 people.’
Alas, these days this is the way the cookie crumbles. If Spotify provided a healthy platform which supported artists financially, musicians would be far better positioned to incorporate sustainable practices which could begin to offset the ecological ramifications of using their platform for growth.
Due to the lack of income made from people listening to online music, artists have to find alternative ways to make money in the industry. The main way musicians do this is through merchandise, which can cause its own problems…
Artist 'merch' currently consists mainly of t-shirts, bags, hats, posters and accessories. As we all know mass producing T-shirts is bad for the environment. The land used to grow the cotton, the water used to make it, the fuel used to ship it, and the waste products produced in the making, all combine to make a hefty carbon footprint before it reaches a your wardrobe.
As merch has become more and more essential to the income of musicians – why not make it sustainable?
At Revive we feel that this is a huge opportunity that we feel very strongly linked to through the use of music as our starting material. Instead of producing something brand new from harmful materials, Revive could offer bespoke services to make merch from RE-CD. We have the ability to cut our material into any shape and can manipulate the colours used to create the final look.
And last but not least, festivals contribute a lot to harming the environment. Music festivals in the UK alone generate:
“23,500 tonnes of waste which includes plastic bottles, food waste, abandoned tents and clothing.”
However, there are some examples of festivals who are committed to being environmentally sustainable. Shambala festival (https://www.shambalafestival.org/) is a prime example, having successfully ‘reduced the festival’s carbon footprint by over 80%, achieved 100% renewable power, become meat and fish free and eradicated disposable plastics.’ Proving that there are definite ways we can make festivals more sustainable, dependant on the commitment from the owners to implement the measures needed.
As shown, there are a number of people and organisations doing things to help the music industry become more sustainable, but it is clear that the industry has a long way to go and needs to commit to making changes. More companies need to be implementing circular economies and looking for ways to recycle the surplus of plastic rather than adding to it. We need to see a combined effort to make the music industry more sustainable and this should not land solely on the shoulders of the individuals, but the collective. Artists, venues, labels, festivals, listeners, the whole industry needs to come together to make sustainability a priority before it’s too late.
Marketing & Communications Executive Revive Innovations Ltd firstname.lastname@example.org