The Music Industry’s Race to Net Zero

By Rodney Chawota

Under the banner of the Music Climate Pact, several organisations and businesses within the music industry are expected to sign up to an agreement to help reduce their collective carbon emissions footprint. It is expected to be done by the end of February this year.

There are two options for them to choose from which are, the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and the UNEP’s Race to Zero SME Climate Commitment. The former is about allowing companies to set up actionable science-based targets whereas the Race to Zero aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

The pact was started jointly by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the Association of Independent Music (AIM). Speaking about its inception, Jude McArdle, the Membership Manager from AIM stated that she set up the initial meeting with a United Nations Environment Programme representative and from that the framework for the pact was set.

Gennaro Castaldo, the Communications Director for the BPI said that as an industry they are seeking a collective response. They see that as the most effective way of achieving real progress. “A lot of the record labels, particularly the large majors already have various initiatives in place, and they’ve been doing quite a lot of work to see how they can reduce their carbon footprint,” he said.

Jude elaborated that everyone was put under a lot of time pressure to commit to something publicly and they had to get sign off from all the different parties. “It’s about getting buy in from the decision makers, but it was also about the scale of it and the time to get it done,” she said.

Gennaro also went on to say, “there are particular challenges for our industry. One is that we’re partly physical. We’re also largely now digital, and streaming based as well. In the UK alone, something like 83% of all our music consumption is through streaming.”

Genaro further stated that the physical product poses a number of challenges for the industry. Primarily this involves the packaging, manufacturing and distribution and each aspect poses its own impact on carbon emissions.

Nigel Adams, Founder of Full Time Hobby, an independent music label stated that physical is a much larger part of their income stream and that only 30% to 40% of their music is digital. He emphasised, “to say that we’re not going to produce any physical product right now isn’t possible for us to keep trading as a company.”

He also added, “if we’re going to continue making vinyl, for example, are there ways of making that less resource intensive with maybe a less toxic plastic? There are people looking at those but as a small company that’s beyond our control to suddenly come up with a new format. We manufacture mainly in mainland Europe. The stock is transported to us, but it’s essentially beyond our control how that stock gets to us.”

He further elaborated that due to these abovementioned issues when they get the product, they do not have the time to then take longer to transport it. So, despite shipping being a lower emissions way of getting the products to America. They cannot afford to wait that long because it has taken so long to get the product out. They therefore have to use transport means that leave a larger carbon footprint like air freight.

Nigel also stated that “everybody is behind us as a company becoming more environmentally aware. For example, there’s new artists that we’re working with now who are very keen. They’re younger and they’re very keen to get on board. They want to do everything they can to make the release of their record as low emissions as possible.”

Gennaro also pointed out that groups like Coldplay have recently pledged to cut down their emissions for their upcoming tour by 50% by using renewable energy. They also stated they would be using a “kinetic floor” on the stage which will harness the energy created by the fans and use it to power their equipment. They will also have solar panels installed.

Singer-songwriter Emili Lowery said that there are many modern advances in technology that could be taken advantage of, but they have been made so expensive such that the average person cannot afford to utilise them. “I am not sure the music industry, like other industries have done enough to make these options more affordable,” she said.

Gennaro surmised, “what all of us are now doing, with the UN at the top and all these national government organisations is to set out the parameters. All of us as individuals need to then work out how we engage responsibly and where we find our own balance. Everything is about finding a balance. That’s the only way to achieve pure net zero.”

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