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20 minutes – How streaming music hurts the climate

Never before have listeners had to pay less for music than now. At the same time, the environmental impact of listening to music has never been greater than it is now. This was the result of the study "The Cost of Music" at the University of Glasgow and the University of Oslo.


How do you listen to your music?

According to the study, the willingness of users to pay for music has also changed. The researchers discovered in their research that in the peak year of vinyl production in 1977, consumers spent an average of 4.83 percent of the average weekly music content. In 2013 this is just over one percent.

Although, according to the researchers, the economic costs of music use have fallen in recent decades, CO2 emissions have risen considerably. How come?

Less plastic

Thanks to music streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Amazon or Pandora, all plastic production in the music industry has decreased. In the peak year of vinyl production in 1977, 58 million kilos of plastic was used annually. In 1988, when the cassette reached a peak, the industry consumed 56 million kilograms. In the CD year 2000 the value even increased to 61 million kilograms.

Then the turning point began. Until 2016, the amount of plastic required fell to just 8 million kilograms. At first glance, this seems like very good news.

More greenhouse gases

Kyle Devine, professor of music at the University of Oslo, and co-author of the study, says: "These numbers may indicate that downloading and streaming music has become more environmentally friendly. However, we think a completely different picture when energy spent on listening to music online. "

To prove this, researchers have converted the energy needed to produce plastic and generate electricity to store and stream music to greenhouse gas equivalents. The study shows that between 1977 and 2000 greenhouse gas emissions were only subject to small fluctuations, but have recently increased. For the US alone, values ​​from 200 to more than 350 million kilograms were estimated for 2016.

"CO2 emissions are considerably higher than at any other time in music history," Dr. Devine. The reason for this is that for streaming, downloading and backing up music devices with internet access you need considerably more power than other playback devices.


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