Going Green in the Music Industry

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Can an industry in an extreme state of change really go green?

For years, the music industry has been fighting a battle to continue generating revenue. Unlike no other industry, the growth in online activity has presented endless challenges and the need to change.

With many people no longer buying records and instead choosing to download their music – the fight to earn money and keep the industry alive has been a fascinating thing to watch.

But how has the music business started to deal with the biggest challenge of all? With artists travelling all over the world and huge events creating mountains of waste, how is the music industry dealing with the environmental impact of their business?

The good news is that there’s a lot going on, from major events and artists taking a stand through to the shift to digital, the music industry is now becoming more green than ever.

We’ve rounded up some of the biggest factors in making music more environmentally friendly.


With hundreds of thousands of people gathering in the same place for a weekend, the challenge of reducing the impact on the environment is huge. Adding to the sheer volume of people, the fact that most music events are held in locations not designed to deal with large amounts of waste makes this job even harder.

Major festivals such as Glastonbury in the UK take a huge amount of pride in their role of reducing the impact on the environment, and ensuring that the event site is returned to its original state with minimal damage. Perhaps the most effective solution is putting the control back in the hands of the festival goer. Initiatives including money back deposit schemes on drinks cups, and handing out recycling bags to everyone who comes through the gates means that waste is reduced and recycling figures stay high.

Travel Planning

As soon as an artist starts to see success, they are likely to be in demand on a global scale. The fallout here is that meeting this demand requires a huge amount of air travel. Not only is this extremely costly, it also means most successful artist’s carbon footprint is going to be fairly large. Whilst it’s unpractical to completely cut out air travel, clever planning can dramatically reduce the number of air miles flown. Tour routing is not an easy task, but by following a natural route and reducing the back and forth is a good first step. Combining promotional activity with a tour schedule can also be a very effective way to reduce the number of long haul trips required in an albums promotional cycle. Getting this right saves money, reduces the amount of travel needed (happier artists and reduced costs!) and cuts down on an artists impact on the environment. Everyone wins!

Digital Sales

Although the move to digital music sales has been full of financial struggle, one of the positives is that less physical product is being produced. Cd’s, cassettes and vinyl all invariably lead to pollution via their production and the move to digital sales now means less materials are required to meet the same level of sales. Cellophane wrapping and general packaging also leads to waste. Less physical product being produced means less waste. With subscriptions to services such as Spotify rising by 44% in 2012 and sales of CDs continuing to plunge by 20% (UK) – that’s big reduction in the amount of packaging required.

Artists spreading the word

One other factor is that successful artists have a loud voice with which to publicise issues, and many artists feel strongly about the environment. One of the most innovating examples of this is the Dave Matthews band and their use of the ‘Solar Stage’. It’s no secret that a large scale show uses up a huge amount of energy, but the solar stage makes use of solar energy to power the show. Many artists use their voice to publicly promote environmental campaigns. Alongside a range of other famous artists, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke plays an active part in Friends of the Earths ‘Big Ask’ climate campaign.

When the digital revolution started, it was thought to be killing off the music industry however it is now seen to be saving the business. We are now seeing a situation where the music business is in full recovery mode – and in a much better place environmentally as a result.

  • Guest Author

    Greener Ideal strives to help you live your life in more sustainable ways with green living tips, healthy recipes and commentary on the latest environment news. The views expressed by guest authors are their own and may not reflect those of Greener Ideal.

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