The Music Industry and the Environment

In an age where musicians rely on concerts and festivals to provide a wage, the global climate could be taking a huge hit. Some musicians are striving to support change, with big-name Billie Eilish wearing an enormous black T-shirt to the American Music Awards, with the phrase “no music on a dead planet” spelt out in red rhinestones and an outline of some lapping flames below the text.


Of course, it is incredibly difficult for any modern person to control their environmental impact: even with the use of metal straws and reusable coffee cups, their impact on the environment can remain high. It is important to note that while any little gesture does make a difference, the impact that the music industry has on the environment could be negating those small differences. In fact, Julie Bicycle (a London based charity) discovered that a total of approximately 85,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions come from bands touring in the UK, as well as the UK acts touring overseas.


Many musicians, bands and music organisations have begun to highlight environmental concerns in the music industry, and some have even strived to make changes to lessen their impacts on the environment. The lead singer of Coldplay, Chris Martin, for instance, stated in 2019 that they would not be touring their newest album as the band’s travel makes up over 40% of their tours’ carbon footprint. As a result, Coldplay will be working together to create a touring strategy that is more sustainable.


Some festivals have also started to create plans to lessen their involvement with climate change. For example, the Glastonbury festival in 2019 promised to become single-use plastic-free and will only offer compostable or reusable plates and cutlery. Another example of a festival that is striving for sustainability is the Unsound Festival, an underground music-and-visual-arts festival held annually in Kraków, Poland. They joined forces with the Aeris Futuro Foundation to work out the festival’s annual carbon emissions and have proposed to plant enough trees to counteract their environmental impact.


So, how can we as individuals help lessen our impact on the environment while supporting the music industry? As a result of the ever-growing amount of music streaming providers, many musicians rely on touring and festival performances to provide a wage, thus, I suggest outright buying a musician’s CD either digitally or physically to support them. In turn, this may reduce the number of tours that a band needs to partake in, and may, as a result, even help lessen the impacts of overworking that some musicians experience with constant touring. Though, it is important to note that, as CDs and Vinyl are often made from plastic and plastic-like materials, we must be careful to dispose of them properly when they are no longer required, or even find ways to reuse them in creative ways ourselves.


Festivals are incredibly important to the music industry so I am in no way suggesting that you avoid them but I am going to offer suggestions of how you can limit your impact on the climate while attending them. 


Firstly, you can follow the Glastonbury Festivals’ efforts and bring only compostable or reusable tableware. Also, ensure that you do not litter while attending the festival, and take all your belongings with you when you leave. In 2018, 60,000 tents, along with other camping gear estimated to be worth £1 million, were abandoned in the fields of the Reading by festival-goers, whereas in 2019 at the Glastonbury Festival 99.3% of tents were taken away by the festival punters. 


It is, unfortunately, a common misconception that the tents that people leave behind at festivals are collected by charities to provide to homeless people. In fact, it is estimated that over 90% of the abandoned tents end up in a landfill or incinerator. As a result of the number of tents and other items that are abandoned at music festivals, some have begun to suggest the introduction of a tent tax to discourage the behaviour. 


After a long year of no live music or music-based events in the majority of the world in 2020, it is important to offer support to musicians and music-based organisations by attending events when possible but please, take note of your impact… before it is too late.


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