Courtney Allan

How streaming music could be harming the planet

How streaming music could be harming the planet

Two professors at the University of Oslo have concluded that music streaming has had more of a negative impact on the environment than purchasing a physical product (such as a C.D).

The study was on the economic and environmental costs of the music industry since the 1970s

“Intuitively you might think that less physical product means far lower carbon emissions. Unfortunately, this is not the case,” Kyle Devine, an associate at the University of Oslo says.

Despite the decline in CDs, which has fallen 18.5 per cent since last year, the decline doesn’t offset the environmental cost of maintaining streaming services, such as YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora.

As streaming services utilise large amounts of computing power, servers, storage and cloud capabilities, the increased power usage means more greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

Devine calculated that 140 million kilograms of GHGs were emitted in 1977, which was calculated by converting past plastic production to emissions.

Using the same formula, it was discovered that the recorded music industry emitted between 200 million and 350 million kg of GHGs in 2016.

Devine revealed to Express that he was surprised by the results.

“I am a bit surprised. The hidden environmental cost of music consumption is enormous.”

He reveals more in his book Decomposed: The Political Ecology of Music. A brief summary of the book reads:

“Today, recordings exist as data-based audio files. Devine describes the people who harvest and process these materials, from women and children in the Global South to scientists and industrialists in the Global North.

“He reminds us that vinyl records are oil products, and that the so-called vinyl revival is part of petrocapitalism.

“The supposed immateriality of music as data is belied by the energy required to power the internet and the devices required to access music online.

“We tend to think of the recordings we buy as finished products. Devine offers an essential backstory.”