According to two professors, music streaming has a more negative impact on the environment than purchasing a physical product. This claim comes from a new study on the economic and environmental costs of the music industry since the 1970s.

“Intuitively you might think that less physical product means far lower carbon emissions. Unfortunately, this is not the case,” Kyle Devine, an associate at the University of Oslo says. Devine works as an Associate Professor in the university’s Department of Musicology.

Though a decline in CDs (18.5 percent last year) does mean reduced plastic use, it does not offset the overall environmental costs of maintaining streaming services like YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora. Since streaming services utilize a tremendous amount of computing power, servers, storage and cloud capabilities, the increased power usage means more greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

Converting past plastic production to emissions, Devine calculated 140 million kg of GHGs were emitted in 1977. Using the same formula, Devine found the recorded music industry emitted between 200 million and 350 million kg of GHGs in 2016.

“I am a bit surprised,” Devine tells Express. “The hidden environmental cost of music consumption is enormous.”

The revival of vinyl is also contributing to GHGs, as vinyl records are oil products.

Devine fully explores the environmental and human impact of the music industry in his book Decomposed: The Political Ecology of Music. Devine’s partner in the study is Dr. Matt Brennan, who focuses on “music and sustainability” at the University of Glasgow’s School of Culture and Creative Arts.

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