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Music biz vows to end CD scandal

Go digital, save a polar bear's toenail

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Influential music groups in the UK have urged the record industry to end one of its most shocking scandals. You might think you've heard everything - but this silent disgrace has been unreported until now. Sensitive readers may wish to stop reading at this point.

Each year UK record labels send out 25,000 promo CDs. In new research released today it is estimated that the manufacturing, packaging and transportation of these deadly items creates 1,686 tonnes of carbon dioxide. That's 10 times as much CO2 as is generated by distributing the music electronically. But only a quarter of promo music is distributed electronically, today, and music groups the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the Association for Independent Music (AIM) have called for that proportion to be increased - for all our sakes.

(The research estimates a digital file "emits" 62g of CO2.)

Former EMI chief executive and current BPI chairman Tony Wadsworth said today that the new research "provides clear evidence for a responsible way forward for all labels big and small. We will be encouraging everyone involved in promotion – labels and media alike – to reflect on these findings and consider how they can speed up the move towards digital distribution."

Switching all promos to digital delivery would save 240 tonnes.

Just to put that in perspective, underground wildfires in China produce up to 450 million tonnes of CO2 a year. The amount of CO2 produced by new build coal power stations around the world, which help millions of people out of poverty, is around 500 megatonnes a year. Total CO2 emissions from coal are 5,814 billion tonnes of CO2 , rising to 6,820 in 2035. In other words, we could turn all the world's coal power stations off for about twelve milliseconds.

Every little helps, though.

The research was carried out by Alison Tickell for her music business environmentalist group Julie's Bicycle. Tickell is a member of a global warming dynasty. Her brother Oliver earns royalties from carbon offsetting, while her father, the former diplomat Sir Crispin Charles Cervantes Tickell, is credited with convincing British PM Margaret Thatcher of the hypothesis of catastrophic man-made global warming in the late 1980s. By 2003, Thatcher appears to have recanted - and in her memoir Statecraft doubted the warnings of politically-motivated "doomsters" and described their anti-industrialisation policies as "costly and futile".

Tickell Snr is a patron of the Optimal Population Trust and made an ominous prediction to an interviewer last year: "It’s one animal species out of control," he said - meaning us, "and the awful thing is that if we don’t control it then Mother Nature will do it for us." ®

Bootnote

The music business has done its bit already. Sales of physical CDs have fallen by 20 per cent from the 162m units shifted in 2004 - more than cancelling out the entire promo effect. Or, another few milliseconds of coal-fired power carbon emissions.

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