Coldplay’s 2022 ‘Music Of The Spheres’ world tour has sold more than one million tickets across Europe. However, this unprecedented success comes with an environmental price: an enormous amount of CO2 emissions. Join E&M author and editor Alberto Méndez to analyze how their latest sustainability report sets an industry example for pop acts to compensate for their global footprint.
In the year 2023, Europe has witnessed the shattering of two captivating records that have captured the world’s attention. Firstly, the realm of music has reached new heights in consumption, particularly across Europe’s strategic hubs like Germany, the U.K., and France. Streaming platforms in these regions not only continue to drive the growth of their respective digital businesses, but also have a very significant impact on live music consumption: world tours, festivals and similar events.
Secondly, July 6 marked a historical milestone as the hottest day on Earth since temperatures were ever recorded (1979). This alarming revelation came from the Climate Change Institute, reporting a significant rise in the average global air temperature. With the average increasing from 16.25ºC in the late 20th century to 17.14ºC this year, the UN has declared a new era of “global boiling.” This terminology, while metaphorical in nature, underscores the severity of climate change. The data indicates that the world is inching closer to critical thresholds, making July a contender for the hottest month ever documented.
Amidst these striking developments, one group stands at the intersection of these two trajectories: the world’s biggest pop-rock band: Chris Martin-led Coldplay.
Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres World Tour, launched with a mission to be environmentally beneficial and reduce direct carbon emissions by 50% from show production, freight, band, and crew travel. After 12 months, the emissions data was collated, assessed, and independently validated by Prof. John E. Fernandez of MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative. The results showed that the Music of the Spheres Tour had achieved a remarkable 47% reduction in CO2e emissions compared to their previous stadium tour in 2016-17.
In the second year of the tour, they took additional measures to enhance sustainability. The entire show, including audio, lights, and lasers, is now powered by an electric battery system, allowing the use of 100% renewable energy in the most efficient way possible. They have also embraced electric vehicles, alternative fuels, and minimized waste and plastic usage.
The engagement of fans in sustainable practices played a significant role in the tour’s eco-friendly efforts. Concert attendees actively participated by using recycling bins, taking public transport, ride-sharing, bringing refillable water bottles, and returning LED wristbands after shows. Each concertgoer’s presence resulted in the planting of a tree, and they financially supported several environmental organizations.
Moreover, the tour’s most notable achievement was the planting of five million trees in partnership with One Tree Planted. This extensive reforestation initiative took place across 17 countries and 21 projects, promoting ecosystem regeneration in places like the Andes, Indonesia, Haiti, England, Malawi, and Romania.
Apart from the MIT-powered assessment, the band’s sustainability efforts were overseen by a Chartered Environmentalist and the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment at Hope Solutions and Live Nation’s Green Nation team (the latter one being maybe too in-house). It is also highlighted that there is a lack of industry-wide standards for sustainable touring and Coldplay’s desire would be to promote and establish such guidelines.
The report also recognized DHL, the Official Logistics Partner, for its instrumental role in minimizing emissions from freight and transportation. Additionally, while the report didn’t include fan travel emissions in their ‘direct emission’ figures, the initial data gathered through the tour app showed promising signs of increased fan engagement in sustainable practices compared to previous tours.
Coldplay’s “Music of the Spheres” tour stands as a remarkable model of social responsibility (which they had already achieved by integrating deaf fans into their events) and accountability, shining a light on the often-overlooked environmental impact of large-scale events. Amid a world where corporations subtly shift the onus of climate action onto consumers, Coldplay defies the norm. In an industry where they hold a monumental position, akin to corporate giants, Coldplay does more than preach. Their commitment goes beyond public transport suggestions; it infiltrates every facet of their tour. Sacrifices are made, strides taken, to ensure environmental harmony. This isn’t just music; it’s an inspiration for a new era of pop icons who recognize the power they wield and the change they can truly effect.
The urgency of our times demands that the world’s most influential entities acknowledge the real, measurable ramifications of their actions. The call is for genuine transformation, not just token gestures that cloak profit-driven motives. Greenwashing narratives, replete with hollow claims, no longer suffice. Society has the right to demand transparency when it is our planet that it is at stake. The true challenge lies in these colossal players truly altering their methodologies to safeguard our fragile biosphere. It necessitates a departure from ambiguous PR posturing aimed at maintaining share values, and instead, a resolute commitment to substantial change. Only then can the imperative of preserving our planet supersede the pursuit of profit, ushering in an era where actions speak louder than mere statements.