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  • Writer's pictureElle Eyestone

The Environmental Impact of Concert Tours


Written by: Elle Eyestone

Edited by: Sophie Wisden


In the post-COVID world, we have seen a rise in concert touring globally. In 2024, big names including Olivia Rodrigo, Bad Bunny, Madonna, Mitski, Stevie Nicks, Taylor Swift, and the Rolling Stones are set to go on tour (Pitchfork, 2022). It seems as though artists were itching to tour during the COVID-19 lockdown, and as a result, we are now experiencing a massive influx in touring. Similarly, there seems to be a new excitement and energy among fans when it comes to the tours. Fans will drop hundreds – if not thousands – to purchase tickets, fly to the shows, and buy costumes for the concert. There has been massive amounts of media coverage surrounding the economic impact of some of these tours, but the discussion about the environmental impacts of touring is rarely brought up.


This article will focus on the environmental impacts and sustainability efforts of the following three tours: Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour (2023-2024), Beyonce’s Renaissance Tour (2023), and Coldplay’s Music Of The Spheres Tour (2022-2024). 


The Eras Tour



Taylor Swift has recently come under fire following reports that her private jet produced the most emissions of any celebrity in 2022 (Bywater, 2023). Since the launch of the Eras Tour in March 2023, one can only assume that Swift’s emissions have increased.

Reports on Swift’s private jet use show that during the United States leg of her tour, she often flew across the country after shows to stay in her Nashville home, then flying back the next day to perform again (Kay, 2023). As of August 2023, Swift had spent 166 hours flying around the US for her Eras Tour (Kay, 2023). Swift does reportedly make efforts to offset her private jet emissions (Kay, 2023). However, it is difficult to quantify the effectiveness of carbon offsets, and this does not consider the other environmental impacts of the Eras Tour itself (Kay, 2023). 

Emissions associated with transporting all of the people involved with touring – the dancers, the staff, the band – are once again difficult to quantify, though undeniably significant. What is not difficult to quantify though are the emissions associated with transporting fans to concerts. With the Eras Tour starting its international dates, many of Swift’s fans are expected to travel over 2,700 km to see the show (Bywater, 2023). For example, since Swift is not touring in New Zealand, Air New Zealand has since added 2,000 seats for flights to Australia explicitly to accommodate concertgoers (Bywater, 2023). Similarly, Australian airlines have added at least 60 flights to transport fans to the big cities to see the shows (Bywater, 2023). 

It is important to note that this issue is not unique to the Eras Tour - this is the case with many world tours. Additionally, Swift’s team has stated that Taylor purchased more than double the amount of carbon credits to offset the emissions of all tour travel, though the exact tonnage is not known (Kay, 2023).


The Renaissance Tour



Many common criticisms of the Eras Tour also apply to the Renaissance Tour, such as the uptick in fast fashion consumption. In the case of the Renaissance Tour, Beyonce encouraged fans to dress in all chrome and silver (Jimenez, 2023). Of course, this led fans to search for clothes adhering to this dress code, but understandably they did not want to spend an exorbitant amount of money on high quality clothing that they likely would only wear once (Jimenez, 2023). A similar issue arose with the Eras Tour, with fans wanting to dress as Swift from previous “eras” of her life, leading to similar purchasing habits (Jimenez, 2023). As a result, since the start of both of these tours, there has been a significant rise in fast fashion purchases (Jimenez, 2023). 

Similarly to the Eras Tour, the Renaissance Tour was critiqued for the massive amount of emissions and energy required to transport fans and Beyonce and all of her crew, as well as to power the performance itself (Bryan, 2023). Reportedly, the energy used to power the stage and the production of the show account for about 80% of the environmental impact of the Renaissance Tour (Bryan, 2023). 

Julie's Bicycle, a charity that has been fighting to push the music industry to utilize more environmental approaches to touring, argue that change must come from the top (Bryan, 2023). This means it is up to the performers to push for change, and we as the consumers must encourage and support those efforts (Bryan, 2023). A great example of this type of change is Coldplay’s Music Of The Spheres Tour.


The Music Of The Spheres Tour



Coldplay’s Music Of The Spheres Tour significantly differs from the Eras Tour and the Renaissance Tour due to the emphasis on sustainability. The band’s frontman Chris Martin reportedly arrived to many of his shows by train (when this was possible), and Coldplay made adjustments to their concert venues to sustainably power the production (Sinclair, 2023). Their tour incorporates sustainable elements, such as a dance floor which generates electricity through fans’ jumping, bikes which fans can ride to generate power for shows, and utilizing solar power when available (Aswad, 2023; Sinclair, 2023). The band also pays to plant a tree for each concert goer, donates extra food to unhoused peoples after the shows, uses concert revenue to fund ocean waste cleanup efforts, and donates to organizations such as ClientEarth, Sustainable Food Trust, and Knowledge Pele (Aswad, 2023).

In a statement released by Coldplay in mid-2023, they describe how their environmental efforts successfully reduced their environmental impact by 47% from their previous tour (2016-17) (Emissions update, 2023). After an assessment of their tour by the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative, the band decided to convert their laser, audio, and light power to an electric battery system, as well as furthering their efforts to reduce plastic usage during their shows (Emissions update, 2023). They also encouraged fans to send in ideas for how they could improve their sustainability efforts (Emissions update, 2023). Overall, Coldpay has displayed an impressive and commendable effort at reducing their emissions and waste generation during their shows, and they serve as a great model for other artists to work towards.


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References:

Aswad, J. (2023, June 5). Coldplay’s “Music of the Spheres” tour drastically reduces band’s carbon footprint, sets new standards in Sustainability. Variety.

https://variety.com/2023/music/news/coldplay-tour-carbon-footprint-sustainability-green-1235632704/ 


Bryan, N. (2023, May 18). Beyoncé Cardiff: Weighing up the climate cost of worldwide tours. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-65635285 


Bywater, T. (2023, November 8). Taylor Swift: Climate anti-hero?. NZ Herald. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/travel/taylor-swift-climate-enemy-number-one-eras-tour-carbon-cost-spirals/T2MU6LGKJBCT3CXV4M6KIXIAGY/ 


Emissions update. Coldplay. (2023, February 2). https://www.coldplay.com/emissions-update/ 


Jimenez, K. (2023, August 29). Wear chrome, Beyoncé tells fans: Fast-fashion experts ring the alarm on concert attire. USA Today.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/music/2023/08/27/how-to-dress-sustainably-for-beyonce-taylor-swift-concerts/70671848007/ 


Kay, G. (2023, August 30). Taylor Swift’s private jets have spent over 166 hours crisscrossing the US during the singer’s Colossal Eras Tour. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/taylor-swift-spent-160-hours-using-private-jet-eras-tour-2023-8 


Pitchfork. (2022, January 5). The 44 Most Anticipated Tours of 2024: Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny, Olivia Rodrigo, and More. Pitchfork; Pitchfork. https://pitchfork.com/features/lists-and-guides/most-anticipated-tours/


Prakash, N. D. and A. (2023, September 12). Taylor Swift and climate change: Is the youth “shaking off” or embracing carbon-intensive lifestyles? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/prakashdolsak/2023/08/02/taylor-swift-and-climate-change-is-the-youth-shaking-off-or-embracing-carbon-intensive-lifestyles/?sh=7353c7dc5c08 


Sinclair, L. (2023, June 7). Chris Martin takes the train, Beyoncé flies in by private jet, as Coldplay’s eco-friendly concerts ignite Cardiff. Herald.Wales. https://www.herald.wales/national-news/entertainment/chris-martin-takes-the-train-beyonce-flies-in-by-private-jet-as-coldplays-eco-friendly-concerts-ignite-cardiff/

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