Before the pandemic, global dance music was in full flight. DJs commanded massive audiences at clubs around the world, often flying between multiple countries in the same weekend. When COVID-19 hit, the industry was grounded, disproportionately impacting the livelihoods of most who work within it.
With vaccinations rolling out, we hope to dance again. But before the planes start taxiing up the runways once more, we should acknowledge the unique chance for the music industry to take stock, and use this restart as an opportunity for change. The demand for a small number of DJs to tour constantly is the result of an environmentally unsustainable industry — and an industry that we have an opportunity to collectively reimagine. This report collates and analyses the carbon footprint of Resident Advisor’s top 1000 DJs touring in 2019, and shows that collectively: artists took more than 51,000 flights, emitting 35,000 tonnes of CO2. The report also suggests that the average carbon footprint of a touring DJ is 35 tonnes of CO2 – 17 times higher than the recommended personal carbon budget widely accepted with keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees. The analysis shows that this is equivalent to 20,000 households consuming electricity for one year, powering 8,000 festivals for three days, or pressing 25 million records.
The report, titled Last Night a DJ Took a Flight: Exploring the carbon footprint of touring DJs and looking towards alternative futures within the dance music industry, is published by Clean Scene, a Berlin-based collective made up of music industry professionals who want to create a cleaner, greener, and more equitable future for dance music.
At a time when the industry is at a standstill, Clean Scene states that now is the time for a change. The data was not published to blame artists but asks for accountability from all those who are part of the music industry – an industry that profits from oppressive systems that directly correlate to the effects of climate change. The report argues the industry must dismantle these systems which prioritize money, power, and greed at the expense of climate, race, gender, and economic inequality.
In order to address the problems highlighted by the research, Clean Scene defined some overarching themes for consideration. These include:
- planning for future equity
- rethinking exclusivity clauses and prioritizing more efficient tour-routing
- celebrating and investing in local scenes
- establishing agency and promoter networks to provide peer support and sharing best practices
The collective recognizes that the report will trigger critiques and questions surrounding these findings but instead suggests that rather than grandstand in favour of distraction, readers must mobilize, organize, idealize change, and affect it.
Read the full report here