Coldplay’s tour ban raises some awkward questions
LAST week Bono and, by extension U2, were crucified for being a hypocritical ecowarriors for daring to tour the world while flying on a fossil-fuel burning luxury private jet.
The same week, Coldplay's Chris Martin was crucified for putting his band's tour for their latest album, Everyday Life, on hold while they negotiated how to travel the globe in a more sustainable manner.
"All of us in every industry have to work out what the best way of doing our job is," Martin told the BBC, noting that flying is naturally a major hurdle, but he had early visions of a potentially solar-powered tour with no single use plastic in sight.
"We've done a lot of big tours at this point. How do we turn it around so it's not so much taking as giving? Our next tour will be the best possible version of a tour like that environmentally. We would be disappointed if it's not carbon neutral."
It's tough work being an environmentally-aware rock star because few things trigger social media non-worriers more than musicians swapping sex and drugs for woke dreams of being carbon neutral.
There were the obligatory claims of virtue signalling (because showing you care is apparently a negative thing now) and some were fast to point out that Coldplay had used electricity to record their new album and plastic to manufacture the physical copies of it. UK band The Coral cheekily asked if they could borrow Coldplay's tour bus while it was gathering dust.
Then came the cheap jokes from the band's haters.
'The one good thing about global warming? No Coldplay world tour'. And, 'Coldplay won't tour until the environment improves? Let's all start burning tires [sic]'.
The reality is, though, that Coldplay's decision is a seriously costly one. The band's last world tour, which spanned 2016 and 2017, grossed almost $750 million and sold over five million tickets worldwide. Deciding not to tour is a major financial decision. And while the band are multi-millionaires, there's an infrastructure around them who only get paid when they're in touring mode.
Coldplay touring a country like Australia doesn't just line their own pockets. International tours bring in major coin to the local economy - huge stadium shows are a bonanza for hotels, airlines, restaurants, local promoters, venue staff (from security to catering) merchandisers and, of course, fans.
A recent breakdown of the average tour's carbon footprint by the BBC revealed that 34 per cent can be attributed to the venue (electricity, airconditioning etc), 33 per cent to audience travel to and from the show (car pollution), manufacturing and transporting merchandise is 12 per cent, and way down at nine per cent is band travel.
Based on that, a lot of what Coldplay has to figure out is external - changing how their workplace and their fanbase operates is difficult when people get salty about having to pay for a plastic bag at the supermarket.
But many bands have gestured about environmental concerns and they're not going away.
Few have actually done something about it beyond offering fans a scheme to recycle old t-shirts like The 1975 or offsetting carbon emissions on their flights. But in tapping out of global stadium tours at the peak of their appeal (Everyday Life is the No. 1 album in the world right now), Coldpay are putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to mapping out an eco-friendly blueprint.
Whatever you think of their music (which resonates with millions, and also drives the haters crazy) it's now time for them to invent another touring concept that could lead the way - then wait for the inevitable backlash.
Cameron Adams is a national music writer.