Music streaming is worse for the environment than you think

It might seem like producing fewer CDs is better for the environment, but actually, science tells us YouTube and Spotify are just as evil.


Words by: Aimee Cliff

Just as you were thinking that the one redeeming feature of the digital music age was its kindness to the environment, a new report published on Music Tank has revealed that the energy consumption involved in the online sharing and streaming of music is just as harmful, if not actually more harmful, to the environment than the physical production and distribution of CDs.

In the report, titled ‘The Dark Side of the Tune: The hidden Energy Cost of Digital Music Consumption’ and written by Dagfinn Bach of Bach Technology, the stats tell us that streaming an album online 27 times can in fact use more energy in total than the manufacture and distribution of its CD equivalent. Which means that if you listen to our fantasy Mercury Prize shortlist as many times as we have, you might as well have kicked down a tree or five.

MusicTank’s report stresses the movement away from “ownership” of music in recent years, towards a more “cloud-based” system. What this means is that while a lot less of us actually own hard copies of the music we love, we are far more likely to stream this music via online portals such as YouTube, which are powered by environment-slaying server-farms, like the one pictured.

The report calls for creative communities to consider whether they should play a greater role in ensuring that their output is heard in the most ethically sound way possible. Fundamentally, it seems that someone needs to take responsibility for making sure that music is either more environmentally friendly or just a bit less brilliant, so that we can stop literally destroying the earth in order to get our fix of it.

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