For a brief few months in 2021, music lovers and the climate change community alike were under the impression that the first big climate-focused music album was on the cusp of being released. Expectations were high. This would not be a standard pop record, it was thought, but rather a response to the environmental crisis, a call to action for the masses, a vision for the decarbonized future.
That presumption was, it turned out, just a presumption, although not entirely unfounded. The title of the album, “Solar Power,” certainly suggested a connection to clean energy, and the artist, Lorde, had made clear she was concerned about the environment. She even announced beforehand that in an effort to reduce plastic consumption, no CDs of the album would be sold, only biodegradable “music packages.” Still, shortly before its release, Lorde clarified that “Solar Power” would not be a climate change record. “I’m not a climate activist,” she said in a Guardian profile. “I’m a pop star. I stoke the fire of a giant machine, spitting out emissions as I go.”
Much of the media focused on the first half of that statement, but there is perhaps more insight to be gleaned from the latter part of it. The music industry is indeed a giant machine, one whose contributions to the climate crisis are easily overlooked. And while the emissions that the music industry spits out may pale in comparison to those of other sectors, its intangible and less-noticed tangible contributions to the climate crisis—and the obstacles that hinder the mitigation of those contributions—exemplify the issues faced by nearly every industry.