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A study has shown that music streaming impacts the environment more negatively than records and CDs do.
In recent years, music streaming, or listening to music online, has become more common, replacing physical media like records and CDs. As people transitioned from using physical media to streaming, the use of plastic in the American music industry was downsized from 61 million kilograms in 2000 to just 8 million kilograms in 2016.
However, a joint study by the University of Glasgow and the University of Oslo found that carbon emissions actually worsened due to streaming. The researchers compared physical and digital media in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases they produce. In 2000, the United States produced about 157 million kilograms of greenhouse gases from the production of physical copies of music albums. On the other hand, music streaming produced up to over 350 million kilograms of greenhouse gases in 2016.
Although digital music does not make use of plastic, millions of electronic music files are stored on servers that consume electricity and consequently produce greenhouse gases. All online activities, including streaming and downloading files from these servers, also cost electricity. Thus, when several people stream music worldwide, the production of greenhouse gases increases exponentially.
The study’s lead author, Doctor Matt Brennan, explained that the study’s goal is to educate people about music consumption, and not to discourage people from listening to music. The researchers only want to encourage people to be more critical about the choices they make, and to choose services that benefit artists while mitigating the negative impacts on the environment.