The music industry has had a pause in the performing space over the past few years due to covid regulations. At that time, the digitization of music increased, causing many artists to completely withdraw from live performances. With the current transition towards weaker covid regulation, the opportunity for artists to share their music with their fans live has become possible in a new way. The implementation of sustainable practices in not only live concerts but also in other aspects of music has started to become apparent as more artists and their companies have started to push towards pro-environmentalism.
Let’s look into some of the breakthroughs of sustainability currently happening in music.
Firstly, was with Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres concert tour in 2022. Almost their entire tour was powered by renewable energy. The band focused on three key principles to put the environment first in their concerts. These principles were to reduce (tour emissions by 50%), reinvent (through using new green technologies), and restore (by funding nature and technology-based sustainability projects). A detailed list of the new sustainability practices for their tour took into account many aspects such as travel, food, merchandise, etc. Their most notable practices revolved around the plan to power their concert. Using kinetic dance floors and bikes that fans can ride on provided by BMW, Coldplay has wholly revolutionized how their concert is run. Fans had the opportunity to power the very concert they were currently watching. Other avenues of energy included solar power collected by panels behind the stage, renewable diesel provided by a Neste partnership, and mains power from renewable sources. The band and its company had concerns of backlash due to the immense transportation used in tours regularly. Transportation such as air travel and tour buses are the norm and each has high emission levels due to the fuel they rely on. To bypass these issues, they reduced opportunities for flight travel where they could and focused on reducing emissions in which they had more direct control.
Another instance of the music industry transitioning towards sustainability is through packaging. BTS’s J-Hope has recently released a solo album, where his company decided to try something new. His Jack in the Box Album didn’t have a CD for fans to listen to. Instead, this physical album came with photocards, which are a norm in the K-pop industry, and a QR code that listeners can scan to access the music. K-pop group albums are known for having a variety of merchandise inside their albums for fans to collect. For instance, in J-Hope’s group’s albums normally contain a lyric book, photobook, CD, photocards, and a poster in their packaging.
It’s quite bold to not include a CD in a music album as a means to reduce waste for the environment. Perhaps this was J-Hope’s company’s way of handling feedback regarding BTS’s previous album, Map of the Soul: 7, in which the photobook was printed on what was considered reduced-quality paper due to the material stemming from recycled paper. Many fans criticized the quality compared to previous albums even though the company had been wanting to become more environmentally conscious. Like the MOTS 7 album, many fans expressed their dissatisfaction with the Jack in the Box album stating that there were other albums that the company could have targeted for environmentalism instead. The purpose of a CD is to have a physical item to play the music without having to go online. It’s a piece of merchandise that fans appreciate. Is there even a point in only a QR code if people already have access to it on music platforms such as Spotify?
Are these sustainability practices something that will catch on in the music world? Personally, I think low-carbon concerts can catch on with other artists. Because of the traveling nature of concert tours, it would be within the artist and their company’s responsibility to lower their emissions in other ways just like Coldplay did. While I’m assuming the tickets would be pricier, it might be worth it for such a revolutionary medium of entertainment. If the audience in the pit is already going to be dancing around, then why not use that to the tour’s advantage and add a kinetic dance floor that helps power the show that they are watching? It’s a clever way of doing the right thing.
As for packaging and CDs, I think completely removing the CD does not make sense in the culture of music. Physical CDs have always had their place as special memorabilia for fans similar to how photo cards are special. Instead of the CD, other aspects of the packaging can be made more environmentally friendly such as the material the photobooks are made out of. The company should have focused on increasing the quality of the photobook with recycled paper to reciprocate feedback.
Overall, I think it’s great that there is a positive move towards more conscious environmental actions in music. It’s wonderful to know that the entertainment and art consumed by the general public are doing their part to help fight against climate change in their own ways. However, these changes have to make sense within the culture of music. There shouldn’t be drastic changes like removing key points of what fans enjoy for the sake of sustainability. Instead, integrating practices that enhance the experience should be done.