The Harmonious Future: Music Industry’s Push Towards Sustainability

The music industry is gigantic, generating over $170 billion annually, with recorded music alone accounting for $28.8 billion. Additionally, music’s cultural impact is vast, influencing societal norms and political landscapes throughout history. From the civil rights movement to the fall of the Soviet Union, music has been a catalyst for change. It evokes memories, supports mental health, and contributes to humanity’s oral history. Festivals and songs have raised money and fostered goodwill, while recent events, such as the attack on an Israeli music festival, highlight music’s symbolic importance in the fight against authoritarianism.

However, the environmental impact of the music industry is significant, with diesel generators being a major source of carbon emissions at live music events. Additionally, merchandise and physical music formats like vinyl and CDs generate waste, consume water, and can harm ecosystems. 

Recognizing the importance of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles, the music industry aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a 50 percent reduction by 2030. For instance, the Music Climate Pact, launched by the U.K.’s Association of Independent Music (AIM) and the BPI, represents a collective effort to address climate change. Signatories, including major companies like Sony, Universal, and Warner, as well as independents like Beggars Group and Ninja Tune, pledge to measure and reduce emissions and support artists in advocating for climate concerns.

Data from OWL’s Deep Research Application highlights Sony’s commitment towards a “zero environmental footprint” by 2050, addressing climate change, resources, chemical substances, and biodiversity. As climate change risks continue to escalate, the need for a decarbonized society grows urgently, which is why in May 2020, Sony decided to expedite its environmental initiatives, moving the target year forward by a decade. The company has also established medium-term environmental targets by calculating backwards to determine the necessary steps to reach this goal by the fiscal year ending March 31, 2026. 

Vinyl is largely used throughout the industry, though they pose environmental challenges due to its PVC composition and energy-intensive production process. Touring also significantly impacts on the environment. But, artists such as ColdplayRadiohead, and Adele are leading the charge towards sustainability. Non-profits like REVERB play a vital role in advocating for eco-friendly practices by collaborating with artists to minimize tour footprints, eliminate single-use plastics, and support local food and biodiesel initiatives.

The music industry’s commitment to preserving the planet underscores the belief that “there’s no music on a dead planet,” highlighting the urgency for collective action in addressing the global climate crisis.