Back in November 2019, Coldplay announced it wouldn’t tour again until it could make the process not only sustainable but “actively beneficial” to the planet. The results, the band’s ‘Music of the Spheres’ tour, marks a new live model for brands and artists, one that promotes sustainability for the very near future.
Why is sustainability so necessary for the music industry? In the U.K. alone, the British Arts Council estimates that live music produces almost 450,000 tons (405,000 tonnes) of greenhouse gas emissions each year; something Coldplay didn’t want to exacerbate. The band have committed to reducing CO2 emissions by 50% compared to previous tours and will also offset the event’s carbon footprint by funding different rewilding and renewable energy projects.
Described by critics as “one massive, euphoric sing-along,” the show is set in space, and offers the same kaleidoscopic colour, magic and atmosphere the band’s live shows are known for. Only, this time around, things are more eco-friendly.
To support the complex logistics needed to take the tour from city to city, Coldplay has enlisted DHL as its official sustainability partner. The collaboration is not only pioneering a new model for the live music industry; it’s also ushering in a new dawn of collaboration between brands and artists that goes beyond sticking a logo on a ticket stub.
Dirk Ude, head of global advertising at DHL, said the company’s ambition to become a leader in sustainability marries perfectly with Coldplay’s vision to create a touring blueprint that works better for the planet. He’s hoping the lessons from this tour will help the brand deliver best practices for other artists to build on and “push the live music industry towards an ultra-low-carbon and sustainable future.”
While Coldplay’s desire to deliver a sustainable tour stemmed from their personal morals, a recent study from the University of Glasgow found 82% of music fans (versus 72% of the general public) said they were concerned about climate change. Therefore the need for sustainable tours relates to audience and consumer desires as well. However, 64% of gig goers said they were unaware of any green campaigns within the music industry, showing a gap in the market.
The tour actually features many cool initiatives to ensure Coldplay meets its pledges. Among them are a bamboo stage, portable solar panels and electricity-generating bikes that fans can cycle to (literally) keep the lights on. Dancing, or any movement on a specially designed kinetic floor produces power too. Those famous LED wristbands, which light up the stadium via fans’ wrists, have also been redesigned using plant-based materials.
In addition, Coldplay is also flying to venues on “mostly commercial” flights and only chartering jets when it’s entirely necessary, and for every trip, the band is also paying a surcharge for planes to use sustainable fuel.
So far, DHL’s main remit has been to deliver sustainable logistics across the entire transportation supply chain. This has ranged from using biofuels to power ocean and air freight to supplying electric vehicles and trucks for on-the-ground transportation of equipment and staff. Ude admitted one of the most important aspects in fulfilling this brief has been reviewing and continuously improving along the way.
“The way we operate now won’t be exactly the same as the way we operate in a year’s time,” he explained. “And, while we’re changing, we’re making these learnings open source, available to other businesses and bands looking to be more sustainable in their approach.”
Coldplay will work with scientists from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Environment at Imperial College London to quantify the impact the changes make.
So why DHL? With emissions from road-based travel and transport clocking in at an alarming 70% higher than they were at the beginning of the millennium, logistics and delivery businesses like DHL are finding themselves under scrutiny in the climate department.
The German brand published its own sustainability roadmap in 2021 with a promise to invest $7 billion in climate-neutral logistics by 2030. By the same year, 80,000 e-vehicles will represent 60% of its global “last mile delivery” fleet, with further money being pumped into alternative aviation fuels. It also plans to be a zero-emissions business by 2050.
We love to see thriving partnerships between two such influential platforms and ‘companies’ making a difference in both the music and delivery industries.
“The hope is that other global bands and artists will benefit from the partnership […] to help build towards an ultra-low carbon and sustainable future for the live music industry,” Messum added.
John Messum, executive creative director at 180 Global who directed a spot from 180 Global that shows a DHL driver charging her electric truck before heading out on the road, singing along to the ear worm “Yellow.”
Some other artists are also paying their dues to Planet Earth. Massive Attack recently released the findings of its partnership with the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, proposing a course of action for the “urgent and significant reassembly” of the music industry to combat the climate crisis. In line with this, six emissions-reduction modules were designed to trial on the band’s 2022 tour.
Elsewhere, Billie Eilish, Harry Styles and Lorde have partnered with REVERB, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to making live music more eco-friendly to turn their tour packages green.