Streaming music may not be as environmentally friendly as you think

If you thought that the intangibility of streamed music would be much better for our weary planet than buying physical copies of CDs, cassettes and records, you could be wrong.

Environmentalists are warning music fans that their streaming services may be doing more harm to the planet than good.

Despite the plastic that comes with the purchase of CDs and records, scientists say that streaming has more of an environmental impact in other ways.

The energy costs of listening to music are dependent on the medium that we choose, but scientists are warning that, surprisingly, streaming services are in fact the most power-hungry. Online streaming will likely use more 27 times energy than it takes to produce and manufacture a CD.

Music files used for streaming are downloaded and stored on active, cooled servers. The information is retrieved and transmitted across the network to a router, which is then transferred by wi-fi to our phones, iPods and other electronic devices. This doesn’t just happen once; every time we stream a track it happens all over again. Once a CD or record is purchased, the carbon cost associating with playing it comes from a CD or record player.

So, music fans: which is the more sustainable option of the two? Well, if you’re only planning on streaming a song or an album once or twice, then perhaps streaming is the way to go. But, if you’re a repeat listener, then it’s better for the planet if you buy a physical copy of whatever album you’ve got on heavy rotation.

Not to mention, buying CDs and records is better for the bands in question, too. The permanence and physicality of older music formats hold within them a sense of importance, of care and of nostalgia that will never be rivalled by online streaming.

Via BBC Future.