Music Industry

Published on February 19th, 2019 | by Alan Cross

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Which is worse for the environment: CDs, vinyl, or streaming? Nope. Not what you think.

Save for Donald Trump, climate change is on everyone’s mind these days, including those concerned with music at the BBC.

A couple of writers asked a question: What music consumption format or system is worse for the environment: CDs, vinyl, or streaming music services? The answer might surprise you.

“Current digital technology, however, gives us flawless music quality without physical deterioration. Music is easy to copy and upload, and can be streamed online without downloading. Since our digital music is less tangible than vinyl or CDs, surely it must be more environmentally friendly?

“Even though new formats are material-free, that doesn’t mean they don’t have an environmental impact. The electronic files we download are stored on active, cooled servers. The information is then retrieved and transmitted across the network to a router, which is transferred by wi-fi to our electronic devices. This happens every time we stream a track, which costs energy.”

Well, that’s an interesting twist. Read the whole thing here.

I did some math on streaming’s carbon footprint. It’s been calculated that streaming an album over the Internet just 27 times will use more energy than it takes to produce and manufacture a single CD or vinyl record.

In any given second, Spotify is serving up 2.5 million simultaneous streams, If the average album contains twelve tracks, that means–Boop!–almost 210,000 albums’ worth of music was streamed, using nearly 8,000 times more energy than it took to manufacture one CD or one vinyl record.

Meanwhile, if you buy a CD or an LP, it’s there permanently. The only extra energy required is whatever you need to power your CD player or turntable.

Everything comes with an environmental cause, doesn’t it?




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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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