Music touring came to a halt during the pandemic and the industry is only now resuming the national and global transportation of musicians to a range of venues and destinations. But in 2019, before COVID-19 put a stop to music tours, British rock band Coldplay pledged to pause touring until there was an environmentally sustainable way of doing so.
The decision was made after BBC entertainment correspondent Colin Peterson asked the band the question of “how difficult is it to be an environmental band and do global tours?” Lead singer and co-founder, Chris Martin, responded to this with the revelation that the band would not be touring again until they could do so in a way that was “not only sustainable but also be actively beneficial” to the environment.
Last week, the band announced their next tour which is set to start in the UK on 18 March 2022. Whilst they have said it hasn’t been possible to stick to their target of “carbon neutral” or “actively beneficial”, certain steps are being taken towards “sustainable” tour plans.
— Coldplay (@coldplay) October 15, 2021
It’s not just Coldplay’s but the whole of the music industry’s impact on the environment at stake
Early this year, a series of announcements coordinated by the Music Declares Emergency Collective, challenged the idea that the music industry is not taking the climate emergency seriously enough. The report suggested that as the world recovers from the pandemic and touring resumes, the music industry could lead the way with green tours and events. As well as Coldplay, big names in the industry such as Massive Attack, Ellie Golding and Radiohead have spoken about the climate crisis and the urgent action that needs to be taken by musicians to ensure the industry’s environmental impact is massively reduced.
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A report released by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, stated that “to really decarbonise live music, you need to start doing it right from the inception of a tour”. In a recent interview with the BBC, Chris Martin outlined details of the plans in place for Coldplay’s tour that have been in discussion for the last two years. The sustainable model will aim to cut direct emissions by 50% compared to the band’s most recent tour (2016-17). The plans in place to achieve this will involve:
– Powering the show with renewable, super-slow emission energy – with solar installations at every venue, waste cooking oil, a kinetic stadium floor and kinetic bikes powered by fans.
– Providing each venue with a sustainability rider requesting best environmental practices
– Planting one tree for every ticket sold
– Encourage fans to use low carbon transport to and from shows via the official tour app built by SAP, rewarding those who do with a discount at venues
– Ensuring all merchandise is sustainably and ethically sourced
– Offering free drinking water and strive to eliminate plastic bottles at every venue
– Putting 10% of all earnings into a fund for environmental and socially conscious causes, including ClientEarth, One Tree Planted and The Ocean Cleanup.
— BBC (@BBC) October 17, 2021
The band have also established a partnership with climate change experts at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment to quantify the impact of the tour – both positively and negatively – on the environment. It will remain to be seen whether these plans achieve the goal of reducing emissions by 50%.
A mixed response – aviation travel is an issue
The responses to these plans have been mixed but the band say they are prepared for negative backlash. Much of this negative backlash has come in the form of comments about the aviation travel required for getting people to the tour events. What’s more, the band have revealed that they will still be flying around the globe via private jet which they have acknowledged is “not perfect”.
For a band who would like to be the face of sustainable developments in the music industry, the use of private jets has prompted suspicions of “greenwashing” or the attempt to appear more sustainable than one actually is. Whilst the band hope to have “slightly shifted the status quo of how a tour works”, it is possible that all of these outward sustainability practices are more dangerous than beneficial. However, with the band’s previous tour selling over 5.4 million tickets, the knock-on effect of spreading sustainability messages to a huge number of people suggests that these plans may have an impact far beyond the realms of the music industry.
Stay tuned for more to come as the music industry takes actions toward sustainability.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the Featured Photo: Coldplay has announced a new “sustainable” tour. Featured Photo Credit: Brian Karczewski