Curated by Music Declares Emergency, Adapt and Bird On The Wire, the first Climate Music Blowout was held at EartH Hackney earlier this month.
The day-long event featured panels that covered recording, manufacturing, the live sector and the role of artists and asked attendees to consider the issues of sustainability specific to the digital sector in an age of streaming and NFT’s.
The Climate Music Blowout also played host to performances from Black Country, New Road, Brighton indie band Porridge Radio, Skinny Pelembe and London collective Steam Down.
The afternoon raised serious questions about the role the UK music industry plays in the climate emergency and how music can play a key role in creating a greener, fairer future.
In case you didn’t make it down to the event — here’s what we learnt.
The CD comeback
Streaming an album 27 times can use more energy than the manufacturing and production of a single CD, so buying your favourite records would in fact be better for the environment.
The current push for multi-format bundles in that all-important first week of album release is having a huge knock-on effect. When a single CD sale is worth 1,500 streams, it is another reason to look at the way the current system operates.
While the explosion in vinyl sales continues, it’s vital that the industry finds ‘greener’ ways to manufacture something that has been produced in the same way for decades. Enter Green Vinyl — a Dutch company that has developed a new method that is 60 percent better for the environment by using an injection principle rather than pressing. In a time where 80 percent of a No.1 album’s sales are physical, this could herald a greener future.
There is little to no audible sonic difference on vinyls of different weight. The single biggest difference the vinyl market could make is to discontinue the 180g vinyl option. It may feel better in your hand but makes no difference sound-wise.
Drop the case
The shift away from jewel cases to soft pack CD cases is a huge improvement. Jewel cases are a whopping 95 percent worse for the environment. Meanwhile, that dreaded shrink wrap is only responsible for 3 percent of the total plastic used in the manufacturing process and is both recycled and recyclable.
Ingenuity and creativity are going to be key for making the necessary changes. From the delivery of audio through barcodes on t-shirts, to new methods of manufacturing — the focus across the industry is on how to cut down waste and energy use whilst still being a viable commercial business.
A solution to sharing
A hidden energy cost is the sheer amount of times a single music ‘file’ is usually shared within its lifecycle. From the moment of creation, through to producers, mixers, labels, PR’s, journalists, and beyond, each individual copy adds to a huge weight of digital files around the world. Expect a push to create an effective way of storing each file only once.
Don't take a detour
The old clichés about effective tour routing making a difference still hold true. Good planning vastly reduces the environmental footprint for each artist, plus shipping your merchandise rather than flying it out helps inordinately too.
Choosing track licensing options ethically can be a viable option, though of course it comes with a short-term economic impact in that, often, the most lucrative licensing offers are not always from the most environmentally friendly business models.
If you’re choosing carbon offsetting programme, first make sure they are ethical and the type that that offers long-term benefits, for example, are forests and trees being planted in areas where they are likely to still be able to thrive when they reach full maturity?
Ultimately, reducing usage will ALWAYS be preferable.