In November 2019, Coldplay lead singer, pianist and guitarist Chris Martin announced that the band won’t be touring their new album ‘Everyday Life’ – at least, not until they can figure out a way to make their live music performances sustainable, carbon neutral and environmentally beneficial overall.

It’s not the first time Coldplay has refrained from doing live gigs because of environmental concerns, nor is the band the first to address the climate crisis. Other music artists have been doing their part in tackling climate issues. Let’s take a look at how they – and the music industry as a whole – are going green.

Instrument manufacturers

Some guitar brands such as Martin have incorporated the use of eco-friendly materials in their products, like Richlite, which looks and functions like ebony but is made from post-consumer recycled paper. The Martin LX1E, an acoustic-electric guitar as used by Ed Sheeran has a Richlite fingerboard and bridge. 

Industry leaders and companies

In July 2019, the UK music industry made a declaration administered by the Music Declares Emergency group. The organization, which comprises music artists, industry professionals, studios and agencies, was created to enable the music industry in the UK to “accelerate collaboration and ambition” so it can meet environmental goals and to call on governments as well as media institutions to use their resources to help the industry hit those targets.

The declaration’s signatories, which include Sony Music, Universal Music, Warner Music, Abbey Road Studios, Radiohead, Robyn and the Music Venue Trust, among others, vowed to support one another, speak up about the climate and ecological emergency and work toward making their businesses not only ecologically sustainable but also regenerative.

The signatories acknowledge that the practices of the music industry – such as touring and holding concerts and music festivals, where massive amounts of trash is produced and which leaves behind a notable carbon footprint from travel – have a negative impact on the environment. They therefore commit to taking action as urgently as possible. Savages drummer Fay Milton, a member of the organization’s working group, puts it simply: “The only proportionate response is to act boldly and act now.”

In response to the climate emergency, music festivals have also started going green. The Glastonbury Festival banned the sale of single-use plastic bottles, instead offering water taps and water kiosks. Other major festivals, including the Reading and Leeds Festival, have also pledged to become plastic-free by the year 2021.

Bands and artists

Aside from Coldplay, which has been actively going green for more than a decade, other bands and artists are also doing their best to reduce and offset their environmental footprint. These include:

  • Billie Eilish – her world tour, which kicks off in March 2020, will feature an eco-village where fans can learn more about the climate crisis and their role in it. Plastic straws will be banned, recycling facilities will be provided, and audiences will be encouraged to bring refillable water bottles. Eilish has also partnered up with organization Global Citizen to offer up free tickets in exchange for pledges to save the planet.
  • The 1975 – carbon-efficient tours are the band’s priority, and they’ve pledged to plant a tree for every ticket sold. They’re also reducing waste and offsetting carbon emissions by screen-printing new shirt designs over old merch.
  • Massive Attack – the band has been reducing its carbon footprint for nearly two decades. In 2019,  the band partnered up with researchers from the Manchester University to analyze and map the music industry’s carbon footprint. The factors they will look at include band travel, music production, venue and audience transport. With the information, it will be possible to formulate plans to reduce carbon emissions.

Other artists and music organizations who are engaging with the issue of climate change include DJs for Climate Action, Lil Dicky, Foals, Mystery Jets, PUP and Disclosure.

However, with artists becoming increasingly dependent on live performances as a main revenue stream, it can be challenging to implement environmentally friendly measures. Challenging, but not impossible.

One idea that has been floating around as a viable alternative source of income for musicians is to offer digital experiences, particularly those involving augmented or virtual reality, to audiences. It’s an exciting prospect, one we’re definitely looking forward to as we do our own part in tackling the climate crisis.

What do you think of these measures to make music industry practices environmentally sustainable? What can you suggest to make the industry greener? Let us know!

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash