MusicTank publishes new report highlighting the hidden energy costs of digital music consumption

  • Streaming an album over the internet 27 times can use more energy than the manufacturing and production of its CD equivalent
  • Unlicensed file sharing could consume the equivalent of up to four times the annual combined electricity consumption of all UK households
  • Do ever more complex cloud, mobile and streaming services represent sustainable consumption models or do they present us with an environmentally unsustainable digital future?

MusicTank, the University of Westminster’s neutral information hub for UK music business, has recently published The Dark Side Of The Tune – a new report highlighting the hidden energy costs of digital media consumption and implications for the music business.

Authored by renowned innovator Dagfinn Bach, the report focuses on the environmental impact of current shifts in music consumption from ‘ownership’ of physical or digital products towards the range of ‘access’ or cloud-based services such as YouTube, Spotify, Deezer, Rhapsody, rara, Napster, we7, Last.fm, Pandora or iTunes Match.

It has been estimated that the global ICT industry contributes as much greenhouse gas to the atmosphere as all the world’s airlines combined. With the current trend for streaming music direct to computers or portable devices, Bach highlights the resulting energy costs of digital services and the potential impacts on network infrastructure.

Intending to kick-start debate, the report also considers ways to offset energy inefficiencies, such as local storage, caching and mass storage devices.

Speaking about the report, Keith Harris, MusicTank chairman said:
“The uptake of smart devices, combined with the advent of mass connectivity and high-speed broadband continues to revolutionise our consumption of music. These changes also have considerable implications for the environment. Where, in the pre-digital era, music fans stuck a needle on the groove or hit a play button, today they are increasingly turning to cloud-based streaming services powered by energy-hungry server farms.”

Dagfinn Bach added:
“Digital music is not distributed in an environmental vacuum. While CD and vinyl pressing plants are becoming rarer, the growth in data traffic caused by digital content services comes with its own risks and problems. I hope this report shines a light on the issue and opens an important debate, both in the music industry and beyond.”


Report access

This report can be downloaded for free via the MusicTank website:

MusicTank membership

University of Westminster students and staff can become MusicTank members for free.

It’s quick and easy:

  1. Log in to the intranet in the normal way on campus
  2. Go to the Student Services tab
  3. Click on the MusicTank logo and you’ll be taken to a ‘Join MusicTank’ form
  4. Complete a few basic data fields (name, course, year of expected graduation, email address etc), hit ‘continue’
  5. Start to enjoy untrammelled access to MusicTank every time you log on to the university intranet.

Note: Membership access to MusicTank can only be made on site through the UoW intranet.

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