Research undertaken by industry environmental initiative Julieʼs Bicycle estimates that the manufacture, packaging and transport of promo CDs by the UK independent music industry totals 1,686 tonnes of CO2. That’s 10 times as much CO2 as is generated by distributing the music digitally and the equivalent footprint of more than 600 cars on Britainʼs roads for a year. Julie’s Bicycle worked closely with FATdrop as well as digital solution providers Soundcloud and Fastrax with AIM and the BPI to provide an analysis of the promotion market.
The research looked at 860 independent record labels based in the UK that in 2009 between them were manufacturing and delivering 25,000 physical CDʼs with only 9,000 digital promos being distributed digitally. That puts the shift to digital at only around a quarter of the total number of promotion material delivered.
The report highlighted the very real effect of promoting music in this way and the potential reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to be achieved from a change of distribution model. By looking at carbon emissions from various materials used in CD and CD packaging alongside emissions from the transportation of the CD to it’s destination, totals were calculated for both the physical and digital product suggesting that a complete switch to digital delivery would result in annual emissions of 240 tonnes which is an 86% reduction.
These reductions are huge and relatively easily to put into practice which begs the question – How has this managed to go on for so long with so many possible solutions to distributing digital music online? The carbon emissions generated by the record industry on a whole donʼt rival that of the automotive industry for example but all industry should be looking for ways to “reduce, reuse and recycle”. If the record industry need an excuse to begin the switch to digital then perhaps the cost associated with physical promo could be catalyst.
It seems to me that the demand for the physical promo may not have come from the record labels but instead from the journalists. So eager are labels to provide music to journalists in a way that will secure the listening, liking and positive reviewing of a release they are prepared to be dictated to by the press. Recent research by FATdrop also suggests that perhaps the shift needs to come from journalists; when looking at digital promo from an environmental angle the majority of journalists replied that they were ‘aware but not concernedʼ of the impact. Some journalists even see the physical product as a ‘perk of the jobʼ and feel undervalued by receiving a digital promo. Hopefully something this report has done is highlight how damaging the production of physical promos are and make the entire industry more receptive to the digital promo.