Streaming music ‘more damaging for environment’ than either CDs or vinyl

Old vinyl records can be collector's items
Old vinyl records can be collector's items
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The price consumers have been willing to pay for listening to recorded music has never been lower, while the environmental impact of listening to music has never been higher.

Results of a research collaboration called The Cost of Music between the University of Glasgow and the University of Oslo demonstrate how the economic costs of recorded music consumption have steadily fallen in recent decades while its carbon emissions costs have soared.

Picture by Allan McKenzie/YWNG - 19/01/19 - Press - Vinyl Record Fayre, Elizabethan House, Wakefield,  England - Vinyl collectors at the fayre.

Picture by Allan McKenzie/YWNG - 19/01/19 - Press - Vinyl Record Fayre, Elizabethan House, Wakefield, England - Vinyl collectors at the fayre.

Dr Matt Brennan, a Reader in Popular Music from the University of Glasgow, led the research on the changing economic cost of recorded music, said: “The point of this research is not to tell consumers that they should not listen to music, but to gain an appreciation of the changing costs involved in our music consumption behaviour.”

The price consumers have been willing to pay for the luxury of recorded music has changed dramatically over history. After adjusting for inflation, a vinyl album in its peak year of 1977 cost £21.90 in today’s money, compared to £16.56 for a CD in 2000 and £8.52 for a digital album download in 2013.

The advent of streaming over the last decade now means for just £9.99 consumers now have unlimited access to music released via platforms like Spotify. The cost comes from increased need for charging devices and storing data on them.

Dr Kyle Devine, an Associate Professor in Music from the University of Oslo, led the research on the environmental cost of recording formats, said: “From a plastic pollution perspective, the good news is that overall plastic production in the recording industry has diminished since the heyday of vinyl.

“From a carbon emissions perspective, however, the transition towards streaming recorded music from internet-connected devices has resulted in significantly higher carbon emissions than at any previous point in the history of music.”