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“Dance – Or the Lights Will Go Out!”
ESSENTIAL AUDIO BOOK
Coldplay took two years to plan a sustainable world tour. The result: the “Music of Spheres” tour of 2022. The British band is traveling halfway around the world on the tour – with half of the CO₂ emissions.
The crowd trembled. Chris Martin was off and running. While the Coldplay front man was jumping into the air with his legs crossed, confetti fountains next to him erupted into the air. What seemed like a grand finale was just the kickoff to the band’s “A Head Full of Dreams Tour” in 2017. For two decades, Coldplay has thrilled its fans with live concerts worldwide. It has filled even the largest stadiums with its concerts. A laser show, fireworks and huge video screens are standard performance fare.
After the release of its “Everyday Live” album in 2019, Coldplay’s global fan base received a shock: The British band announced that it would not be going on tour for now – for the sake of the environment. In an interview with the BBC, the lead singer Chris Martin explained that they would only begin touring again when concerts became more sustainable. The band planned to take one to two years to make this happen.
More Than Just PR
It was not the first time that Coldplay had championed climate issues. For example, the band promoted forestry projects on its CDs before sustainability became a household word. Doubts were voiced in the music world after the decision not to tour. Would Coldplay actually succeed in touring the globe without damaging the world’s climate? After all, world tours are not exactly known for their sustainability. On the contrary, many of their features leave an ecological footprint behind, ranging from electricity for the stage, to air travel to the venues, to catering and merchandise. When 11 Live Earth concerts promoted climate protection worldwide in 2007, the German news magazine “Der Spiegel” closely scrutinized the flipside of these benefit events and put the concerts’ combined CO2 footprint at 110,000 tons. That corresponds to the CO2 emissions generated by 20,000 people annually. The most recent Coldplay tour in 2016 and 2017 drew about five times as many spectators as the Live Earth concerts. It can be assumed that their CO2 emissions were accordingly much greater.
Protecting the Climate Around the Globe
“I really need you to jump up and down. Because if you don’t, the lights go out.” When Chris Martin calls for his audience to dance during the current world tour, it’s not just out of pure pleasure. There is a kinetic floor at Coldplay concerts. When people jump, they generate energy. And that keeps the concert going. The band is also relying on renewable energy stored in batteries developed especially for the tour. They are developed from recycled batteries from electric vehicles. The show itself is supposed to be staged nearly climate-neutral. Coldplay also motivates the audience to embrace sustainability. A discount code awaits fans who can prove they arrived at the concert by bicycle or train. A tour app is designed to record the arrivals. Biodegradable confetti and multiple-use – not single-use – products are available on site. Visitors can bring their beverage bottles from home and fill them up at water dispensers. The band has also designed its own travel to be as sustainable as possible. Accordingly, the concert route is mapped out to minimize the amount of air travel. When flights are unavoidable, the band turns to CO2 compensation and to biojet fuel to power the plane. All the details can be reviewed in the 12-point plan that an expert team has developed for Coldplay.
There’s Even More?
Climate researchers at the Imperial College in London are accompanying the tour to evaluate the band’s measures. One of them is Jem Woods. In a blog article for the college, he explained that he especially sees potential in the concerts’ broad reach. The message of sustainability is making it into the headlines and resonating. He hopes that Coldplay can be a template for other bands and that it will set new standards in the music and entertainment industry with its concept.
Nonetheless, Coldplay has been exposed to criticism. The burning issue is whether the band – whose last tour included 114 shows and was among the most commercially successful tours of all time – would not succeed in cutting emissions by more than one half. In an interview with BBC Radio 2, Martin accepted the criticism and admitted that the concept is far from perfect. But the band is making a commitment to do everything in its power to make the tour as sustainable as possible and to share what it has learned along the way. That, too, is sustainability: rethinking processes and demonstrating the courage to attempt what is purportedly impossible.
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