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Touring DJs’ impact on climate explored in new report

The carbon footprint left by touring DJ is examined in the new reported by Clean Scene

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The environmental cost of DJ tours has been explored in a new report by Clean Scene. 

The report, which can be read in full here, examines “the carbon footprint of touring DJs and [looks] towards alternative futures within the dance music industry.” 

The 20-page report, titled Last Night a DJ Took a Flight, points out that, prior to the pandemic, many DJs would travel the world on a weekly basis to play clubs and festivals, and would regularly travel between two or three countries over the course of a weekend. The report states that the dance music industry has been given a unique opportunity to rethink this environmentally unsustainable system, and to reimagine a clubbing landscape that is less damaging to global climate. 

Clean Scene compiled their figures using data from Resident Advisor’s Top 1000 DJs chart from 2019, and estimated that those DJs took approximately 51,000 flights that year. That equates roughly to 117,000,000 km travelled, 3,200,000 litres of fuel and 35,000,000 kg CO2 into the air. That much CO2, the reports states, is the equivalent of 20,000 households’ electricity for one year, powering 8000 festivals for three days, or pressing 25 million records.

“The average touring DJ emits 35 tonnes of CO2 per year,” the report continues. “And their carbon footprint is more than 17 times higher than the recommended personal carbon budget of approximately 2 tonnes of CO2.”

Clean Scene also states that there is a considerable disparity between the DJs among the listed 1000 who tour the most and those who tour the least. “The average footprint of the 100 DJs travelling the most is nearly 88 tonnes versus just 3.3 tonnesfor the 100 travelling the least,” it states. “Respectively this is 44 and 1.5 times higher than the recommended personal carbon budget mentioned above. This unequal distribution of carbon emissions mirrors the disparity of environmental harm caused by a small fraction of the population of the world at large.”

While the report emphasises that it is not placing blame on artists (rather, looking at the industry as a whole that has facilitated the culture as it is), it states that collective action must be taken to create a dance music scene that is more environmentally sustainable.

The report goes on to outline a number of potential steps that can be taken by promoters, DJs, agents and ravers. These include committing publicly to making one’s practice in the industry less environmentally damaging and setting goals, concentrating on and booking more local talent, removing exclusivity clauses from clubs and festivals, and thinking about more efficient routes for touring. 

Artists are also encouraged to update to a green rider, which you can get some tips on here.

A significant point made in the report outlines the ways in which considerations of climate change in the industry apply specifically to conversations around racial justice and justice for those who are oppressed by power structures. “Climate change is dehumanising, and those whose lives have been historically exploited will always be the first to feel it's real impact,” it reads. 

The report states that if a reduction in booking international acts is being considered by promoters and clubs in Europe, then BIPOC artists should be prioritised when they do choose to book internationally so that artists from marginalised can be helped to thrive. Artists and agents are encouraged to “apply pressure for promoters to include BIPOC artists to line-ups, even giving up your own slot for someone else.”

You can read the full report from Clean Scene here.

Revisit Martin Guttridge-Hewitt’s 2019 feature for DJ Mag, exploring the environmental cost of dance music, here

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