On the Twelfth Day of Christmas – music industry hits the right note

Our love of music is a constant throughout time, but the music industry is adapting to become greener, and better than ever before.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me twelve drummers drumming…

On the eve of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK music industry was estimated to be worth £5.8 billion. Beyond pure monetary value, the music we produce has immeasurable value in a cultural sense – it’s not for nothing that resurgences in British music are termed ‘British Invasions.’

While music from legends such as the Beatles, Pink Floyd and many modern pop stars are considered a key export, what is the UK music industry doing about its environmental impact? – will it be music to our ears, or just a load of sound and fury, signifying nothing?

Nothing but good sounds

Understandably, the music industry takes a fair share for responsibility over emissions. The manufacture of all those vinyl LPs, plastic cassette tapes and shiny CDs adds up over the years, plus the yards of plastic packaging used.

In 2010, it was estimated that the UK music industry produced 540,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, according to findings published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. One of rock band U2’s gigs was criticised in 2009, for reportedly producing as much CO2 as a return flight to Mars.

That’s why charities such as Julie’s Bicycle are so important. Created in 2006, the group is a creative space with links to the music industry, it hosts events and provides resources, aiming to help shape the discussion over policy development with regards to climate change.

They are strong advocates of the Paris Agreement and regularly help high-profile artists speak out about the environment with the correct know-how to reach wide audiences.

Studios produce green sounds

Recording studios are effectively the cockpit of the UK music industry, so it matters when recording artists do their bit to support greener ways of making music. In the late 2000s, singer Lily Allen recorded her album “It’s Not Me, It’s You” in part at The Premises Studio, London. The Premises has a solar-powered studio, made from recycled materials.

A government-led clean energy cashback initiative, known as Feed-in Tariffs, helped make studios such as the Premises play a role in creating chart-topping records in a low-carbon manner.

Musicians enjoy a privileged position, with their voices and words reaching billions of ears across the globe. The record labels they work for play a role in helping to amplify the word about averting a climate catastrophe.

Music Declares Emergency is an organisation bringing record labels, music organisations, artists and individuals under one banner, calling on governments to sign up to delivering a net-zero carbon target by 2030 and move swiftly to decarbonise the economy.

It’s an encouraging development to see the creative industries turning their clout onto the environment. Music tastes may evolve over time and might be seen as something fleeting or ephemeral, but the words and deeds of singers are increasingly having a lasting impact on our planet.

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