According to the audio technology company MQA, it’s easy to understand the carbon footprint-related effects of physical formats such as CD and vinyl, but many people don’t realize that music streaming has an environmental impact
MQA points out that more people are streaming music than ever before. At the end of 2021, the number of paid subscription accounts worldwide had reached 523 million, according to global music industry body IFPI. This number is said to represent an increase of 18% on the previous year’s tally of 443 million paying subscribers.
Alongside the growth in streaming, artists and record labels are increasingly recording and releasing music in higher quality to ensure fans have access to the best listening experience.
“As major music services upgrade their audio quality, we have to think about how that audio should move around to consumers, and how you get better quality with a smaller carbon footprint,” comments Mike Jbara, CEO, MQA.
In the AudienceNet research, the company found there is a marked difference between the U.K. and U.S. when it comes to views on the future of the environment. In the U.K., only 19% thought the environment would get better, versus 26% in the U.S. The U.K. was also more pessimistic about the future with 41% of respondents stating the environment would get worse, versus 31% of their U.S. counterparts. Looking across the generations, the most pessimistic group overall was Gen Z. Here again there was more pessimism in the U.K. (44% against 35% in the U.S.).
Another aspect of the research revealed that consumers increasingly expect brands to show a social conscience. Younger generations, in particular, are looking at brands as a vehicle for actively supporting social causes.
One possible approach that could be taken is a centrally hosted model, such as proposed by the Vilvit project.
“We have DSPs all over the world, all of whom have their own data stores, and they’re often holding onto the same sound recording base asset as everybody else, rather than a central repository. It’s a very specific example of what could be changed structurally in our industry,” notes Jbara.
MQA asserts that streaming reduces the carbon footprint of high-resolution audio files by as much as 80% and makes resolution 15 times better. Using carbon calculator tools, annual savings from just one person streaming 24-bit/192kHz files on TIDAL (Masters) vs Apple or Amazon for six hours per day equates to:
- 5 return flights London/Berlin
- 9 return car journeys London/Manchester
- Planting 19 trees