The highlight of this month's Wired is on “The Real Value of Music”. As expected, they discuss In Rainbows, the album that achieved music industry infamy through its web only, pay-what-you-want release. (The downloads are over, however, as the recording was released on CD earlier this month.)
What I find most striking about this interview is not the tired discussion about why music labels are evil. (Although there is no doubt in my mind that they are). At one point the discussion turns to the environmental impact of touring, with Yorke musing on how this might be minimized or avoided altogether:
“At the moment we make money principally from touring. Which is hard for me to reconcile because I don't like all the energy consumption, the travel. It's an ecological disaster, traveling and touring… We did one of those carbon footprint things recently where they assessed the last period of touring we did and tried to work out where the biggest problems were. And it was obviously everybody traveling to the shows…
“Especially in the US. Everybody drives. So how the hell are we going to address that? The idea is that we play in municipal places with some transport system alternative to cars. And minimizing flying equipment, shipping everything. We can't be shipped though.”
I don't know Thom, how the hell are you going to address that?
Yorke is the only big name rock star I know of who recognizes the inherently unsustainable nature of touring, and the questions he raises pose a serious challenge to both his band and the music industry as a whole. Is it possible to have a low-impact tour? What about a zero-impact tour? Seriously now, must music kill the planet?
Here are a few ideas Radiohead could implement if they are serious about reducing their ecological footprint:
- Offer discounted ticket prices for fans who travel to the show using sustainable transportation
- Manufacture CDs using 100% recycled materials
- Encourage the sale of used albums
- Use low-power LED lighting systems
These are just a start, and I'm sure you can do much better than me. What do you think touring acts can do to minimize their impact on the environment?