Sustainability, Digitalisation back

Is Streaming the new smoking?

Is Streaming the new smoking?
Photo: © Most Wanted

We stream, stream, stream. According to the forecast, the number of users in the music streaming sector will amount to 23.8 million in 2023. What many do not know or simply forget: Streaming is highly harmful to the climate. The Alliance of Managers d'Artistes (AMA) is focusing on this problem. They are working on methods to determine and measure the CO2 footprint of streaming. During MOST WANTED: MUSIC they gave a workshop under to "Sustainability Across Borders - Let's join forces now!” We met Didier Zerath from AMA and talked to him: What are the solutions for the future? 
 

Interview jens Thomas

 

CCB Magazine: Hello Didier, Revenues from the music industry are becoming increasingly digital: 50 percent of all revenues have already been generated digitally, at least in Germany - and the trend is rising. Streaming ranks right at the top. One might think that it should at least be more environmentally friendly than producing physical sound carriers, since no material resources are consumed. You are dealing scientifically with the CO2 footprint of streaming. How ecological can streaming be?

Didier: That’s a good question, because today‘s data driven economy was generating more pollution through the use of electric resources as well as cooling procedures to keep data centres operational. Nowadays some data centres are buried deep beneath the earth close to the polar circle. In his analyses, the economist Tilman Santarius has shown that the computing power per kilowatt­hour has doubled every 1.5 years over time. But we were all led to believe that alone dematerialization and digitalization would be the solution to support sustainable development as we would stop using single plastic use, the jewel case, stop manufacturing, stop printing, stop packaging, transport and stocking of physical goods. We have to change our minds here.
 

Didier Zerath from Alliance of Managers d'Artistes (AMA) in Action on MOST WANTED: Music 2019. Foto: MOST WANTED: Music
 

CCB Magazine:You and your organization AMA are working on methods to determine and measure the CO2 footprint of streaming. How and with which methods can the CO2 footprint of the streaming be determined and measured? 

Didier:The CO2 footprint in the area of streaming can be determined by the emission factor that is translated from the electricity generation, taking into account the local electricity generation mix at a given geographical location. This is very different from country to country: The World average is 0,519 Kg CO2/KWH. China has the largest CO2 footprint with 0,681 Kg CO2/KWH, followed by the US (0,493 Kg CO2/KWH) and the European Union (0,276 Kg CO2/KWH). One could believe that German coal mines could be a more polluting primary energy to produce electricity that the French economy heavily dependent on nuclear generated power. However if you take the primary energy into consideration and more specifically the cost of denuclearization well, the situation is very different. Nearly four percent of the world's CO2 emissions today are caused by digital devices; in 2025 it could be eight percent. 

The major threat to sustainable development, as far as the music industry is concerned, arises from the streaming growth potential. Today the premium streaming subscription offer has reach less than 300 million consumers out of 8.8 billion people living on our beautiful planet. Needless to say that it is a brand new market far from reaching its maturity stage

CCB Magazine:In 2018 alone, video streaming caused more than 300 million tons of CO2 equivalents. Streaming users have been rising for years. How is it possible to bring about change? How can we shaping the future more ecologically? 

Didier:Yes, the major threat to sustainable development, as far as the music industry is concerned, arises from the streaming growth potential. Today the premium streaming subscription offer has reach less than 300 million consumers out of 8.8 billion people living on our beautiful planet. Needless to say that it is a brand new market far from reaching its maturity stage. In other words: Only 3.4% of the world population is concerned by streaming subscription services. Nice two digits growth potentials for years to come. On the other hand, 40 000 new tracks are being uploaded onto Spotify on a daily basis. Add Soundcloud and Bandcamp and I believe we’re safe pretending 100 000 new tracks are being uploaded daily….how many once the BRIC countries enter the production market? 

CCB Magazine:Ok, but what are the solutions? Sustainability researchers such as Ingolfur Blühdorn say that we must fundamentally abandon our claim to prosperity. This means that in the future we cannot simply continue drive on, and that would probably also mean: we can't continue streaming like now. For example, in Germany there will now be a ban on plastic. Do we need an ecological streaming package ordered by the state? 

Didier:We need to act now, yes. And it can also be assumed that within an extend of 15 years the music offer and the music consumption will grow dramatically. The real question is therefore how we can make economic growth and sustainable development live together. I think, prohibitions are not the solution. One could, however, legally require, for example, that part of the proceeds be reinvested in the ecological infrastructure. There are already platforms like Ecsosia that do this. If you click, trees are planted for it. In France, Ecosia is already on the rise. Ecosia has now a total of 7 million monthly users worldwide and over 50 million trees have been planted on the platform. Such approaches could be transferred to the music industry. 

The real question is how we can make economic growth and sustainable development live together. I think, prohibitions are not the solution. One could, however, legally require, for example, that part of the proceeds be reinvested in the ecological infrastructure.

CCB Magazine:But platforms like Ecosia can't keep up with the big platforms. The authors Thomas Ramge and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger therefore demand a so-called "data sharing obligation" in their book "Das Digital". This means that companies with extreme data wealth, Facebook or Google for example, would have to share their data with competitors in the future in order to prevent monopolizations. The obligation to share data begins as soon as a company reaches a certain market share, for example ten percent. Wouldn't that be a solution for the music industry too? And would it make sense to combine this obligation with an eco-tax, or to give tax advantages to platforms that are already ecological, such as Ecosia?

Didier:Yes, that would be a right way. And that is exactly what we want. But we also have to make the users themselves responsible. They can decide which platforms they want to use. They can make a change. And there has to be a rethink here. 

CCB Magazine:Last question Didier, the issue of sustainability currently dominates the debate. The focus is strongly on ecology. How can social sustainability also be strengthened? Especially small artists earn little from streaming. So what measures are needed to ensure that streaming also stands for social sustainability in the sense of a fairer distribution? So what does a healthy 'sustainability triangle' of ecology, social affairs and economy look like?

Didier:It is in fact interesting to define the perimeter of what we call sustainable development. Some do include, on top of the ecological approach, gender equality, corporate social responsibility, short distribution supply issues for example. We do, for the time being, have a strictly ecological approach to the issues at stake. As far as artist remuneration is concerned, this is a totally different issue for the time being that we do discuss when we talk transposition of the new European copyright directive in our respective national laws. Unfortunately, this must be discussions led on a territory by territory approach.

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