Coldplay not touring until they figure out how to benefit the planet
TORONTO -- Coldplay announced they will not be touring for their latest album Everyday Life, which lands on Friday, until they can make their concert tour environmentally friendly.
"We're taking time over the next year or two, to work out how our tour can not only be sustainable [but] how can it be actively beneficial," lead singer Chris Martin told BBC News, adding that he would love to do a show that mostly relies on solar power and does not have single-use plastic.
"We've done a lot of big tours at this point. How do we turn it around so it's not so much taking as giving?"
The band will instead play two shows in Amman, Jordan, that will be broadcast live and for free on YouTube on Friday, the band said in a press release earlier this month. The concert will will reflect their new double album, with a Sunrise concert at 4am GMT and a Sunset concert at 2pm GMT.
Concert tours are extremely carbon intensive and the band is the latest musical act to recognize the environmental impact of touring.
Coldplay’s last tour had a crew of 109 people, as well as 32 trucks and nine bus drivers travelling across five continents, according to the BBC, with some 5.4 million people attending 122 concerts.
U2’s 360° world tour in 2009 came under heavy criticism for its excessive carbon footprint, large crew, three 390-tonne stages, and 120 trucks. At the time, Carbonfootprint.com said the tour’s carbon footprint was enough to send the band to Mars in a passenger plane.
The carbon emissions for one medium sized concert is equal to a one-way flight from Berlin to New York, according to the Green Touring Guide, which was published by the University of Popular Music and Music Business in Germany. In Germany alone, the guide estimated that emissions released based on ticket sales for music events in one year totalled 372,000 metric tons of CO2, or 248,000 flights between Berlin and New York.
Approximately two-thirds of a tour’s carbon footprint come from audience travel and the venues, while close to 20 per cent are from accomodations and band travel, based on one example the guide cited.
U.S. singer Billie Eilish partnered with REVERB.org earlier this fall to make her 2020 “Where Do We Go? World Tour” more sustainable. REVERB.org is a non-profit organization based in Portland, ME that focuses on environmental and social issues, and partners with musicians, festivals and venues to make concert events more green. Other recent REVERB partners include Dave Matthews Band, Shawn Mendes, P!nk, Maroon 5, Harry Styles, and Fleetwood Mac.
Co-founder Adam Gardner said the Dave Matthews Band and their fans have helped remove more than 121 million pounds of CO2 since partnering in 2005 and raised money to put roof-top solar panels on low-income housing in the band’s hometown, which help lower utility bills for families while also putting clean energy back into the grid.
“Greening the tour itself is always important,” said Gardner, who is a musician himself.
“The bigger impact you can have positively for the environment is influencing all your fans to take actions in their own lives and right there at the concert itself, and using your platform and power within the music industry to make systemic changes.”
Gardner and his wife Lauren Sullivan founded the organization in 2004, and Barenaked Ladies and Alanis Morissette were the first music acts they worked with. REVERB, which recently partnered with the United Nations’ environment program, has reached out to Coldplay offering their help.
Some of the initiatives performers partnering with REVERB have taken include recycling in catering, dressing rooms, buses, avoiding single-use plastic with reusable dining ware, composting, and supporting local farms at each tour stop. Where possible, they have considered different venues to find the most eco-friendly one. Many are providing free water refill stations and encouraging fans to bring reusable water bottles. A group of fans arriving in one car have the potential of getting their tickets upgraded to front of the row, incentivizing them to carpool.
Radiohead was the first major musical act that took detailed CO2 measurements of their tour, the Green Touring Guide said. In 2007, the band calculated the carbon footprint of their tours, taking into consideration the flight and car travel and resource consumption of the band, crew, and concertgoers. After collecting the data, the band implemented a number of measures to help reduce their environmental impact.
The guide recommends six key steps for performers and fans to reducing carbon emissions for both concert goers and musical acts.
- Use the most environmentally sustainable mode of transportation available when possible (trains, then car or tour bus, and flying as a final option). Cut how many vehicles are required by packing efficiently, finding local support instead of bringing more crew. Consider renting lights and sound systems from local suppliers. Some bands incentivize fans to use public transit by offering earlier admission or a discount, or offering combo tickets that include public transportation. Encourage fans to carpool or ride-share.
- Perform in venues that actively help protect the environment. Also, consider the size of the venue, its location and how fans will travel to the concert (bike, on foot, public transportation), and communicate this to fans. Ensure stage equipment lighting uses LED lights, for example.
- Request seasonal and regional foods during the tour to avoid energy waste on storage and long distance transportation. Eat less meat or introduce meat-free days. Waste less food by getting appropriate quantities. Donate excess food to local charities.
- Stay in environmentally friendly accommodations (e.g. more energy efficient) or choose private accommodations via AirBnB. Websites like Bookdifferent.com allows users to sort hotel options by CO2 output.
- Offer merchandise that's sustainable, including band shirts that are certified organic, and high quality, so they are not thrown out quickly. Reduce the amount of printed materials by going digital or use 100 per cent recycled paper. Upcycle old materials.
- Be an advocate. Musicians are encouraged to use their large platforms to talk about climate change with fans and what they are doing to help. Involve fans and other third party organizations. Be transparent by explaining measures that are being taken (or not taken) and explain why.