Woodstock going green

Concerts and the music industry as a whole won’t turn “net-zero” overnight, but the will for change and collaboration is evidently there.

Coldplay in concert
Coldplay pledged 50 per cent lower CO2 emissions on its 2022 world tour. The band in October announced a range of initiatives to reduce energy consumption, including stadium floors that harness fans' kinetic energy. Image: Lindsay Hickman via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

What is going on?

Guilty pleasures. When we hear these words, we imagine a reckless shopping spree at the local mall, staying in our pyjamas all day, or a non-meat-free McDonald’s breakfast. But you’d surely question your sanity when contemplating adding “going to a concert” to that list, wouldn’t you?

When we think of a concert, we think of artists, venues, and lots of fun, but seldom do we take its impact on other stakeholders into account. While technological progress has shifted much of the delivery of music from vinyl to the cloud, the concept of concerts has largely remained the same – including its environmental impact.

A Cambridge study revealed that a six-month tour of five musicians emits as much as 19 metric tonnes of CO2 (the same as driving an average passenger car for 80,000km), of which the majority can be traced to the running of the venue and the traveling of the band and audience. As artists find themselves in ever more conflicting situations – “performing art at the cost of the environment” – there is a need for solutions.

How is the industry reacting?

Are we to abandon the notion of concerts altogether? Luckily not. The industry’s creative streak has been passed onto innovative teams developing ideas on how to bring concerts and festivals into harmony with the planet. From kinetic dancefloors that satisfy an entire venue’s electricity needs to specialist logistics companies and carbon capture collaborations.

The music industry has done a lot to reduce the environmental costs of concerts, and Coldplay’s 2022 “Music of the Spheres” world tour acts as a prime example. After abandoning plans for a 2019 world tour due to its significant potential environmental impact, the Londoners consulted researchers and climate experts at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute of Climate Change and the Environment.

In doing so, they have managed to reduce the anticipated carbon footprint of their upcoming musical spectacle by as much as 50 per cent compared to previous tours by using a kinetic dancefloor at venues, utilising EVs for transport where possible, and by storing excess energy in recycled BMW i3 batteries (to name just a few). 

What’s the message?

“We won’t get everything right, but we’re committed to doing everything we can and sharing what we learn”. Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin’s words could not be more fitting. Especially as the band experienced a backlash for flying on private jets. Concerts and the music industry as a whole won’t turn “net-zero” overnight, but the will for change and collaboration is evidently there.

Unlike with some industry groups, musicians are proactively approaching the issue themselves, well-aware of the environmental implications, and without the need for regulations. And while there are certainly ways that such movement can be supported from a portfolio perspective, we’d much rather for the time being attend a “conscious artist’s” concert – there are plenty (Maroon 5, Fleetwood Mac, Harry Styles and more)!

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