Music Industry Goes Green Despite Limited Impact On Sales

by Emily Burg
of the music business are changing their environmental habits. But
unlike other consumer-oriented industries, music’s embrace of its inner
environmentalist has not necessarily translated to an increase in the
bottom line.

"I’m hard-pressed to think of a
situation where being green translates into sales, but it translates
into a more satisfied consumer," Bill Werde, deputy editor of Billboard, tells Marketing Daily.

"If you buy the record
or go to a concert that is environmentally friendly and it creates a
guilt-free experience–I’m having a good time and doesn’t it make me
feel better?–that builds better relationships with the customer.

"At the end of the day, I don’t know that releasing an album with an
environmentally friendly package sells more music. People will spend
money on the artist and events that they want to see or hear, and it
has less to do with the environmental message," he says.

Still, the green message’s resonance with consumers can’t be
underestimated, and marketers and brands in the music industry want to
be associated with that, Werde says, highlighting a slew of changes in
environmental practices within the industry.

While it was once incumbent on the artists to put a voice to the green
movement, now music labels, branded tour packages like the Vans Warped
tour, and brands like CLIF Bar, whose GreenNotes program sponsors green
artists and tours, are going green.

"Every major label is on board in one way or another in corporate-wide
greening efforts, ranging from the less sexy but viable copying on both
sides of the paper to the use of energy-efficient light bulbs," Werde

In a more direct effort, Warner Music Group and EMI, two of the top
four major labels, are working with the Natural Resources Defense
Council (NRDC) on a series of greening initiatives in North America.
The NRDC also serves as a consultant to an unnamed environmental agency
advising Sony-owned companies on environmental policies. Universal
Music Group, however, works independently on its green initiatives,
following directives from parent company Vivendi.

Some changes have included EMI greening its Grammy party and revising
its transportation policy to include more hybrid vehicles, spurred by
Grammy-nominated artist KT Tunstall’s refusal to make public
appearances in SUVs for her label.

One of the most significant changes the labels can have on their
environmental practices would be the elimination of the jewel case–the
plastic square that most CDs are packaged in.

"The labels are working with key distribution partners and
retailers–the Wal-Marts and Best Buys, which represent two-thirds of
all record sales–to kill the jewel box, which everyone hates," Werde

"The stores that sell CDs are set up to sell CDs in those cases, so if
you switch to more environmentally friendly paper sleeve packages, they
fall through the wiring and you have to change the displays overall.
There are major logistical challenges that need to be addressed, but
phasing out the jewel case is huge."

With the preponderance of MP3 players and the ensuing proliferation of
downloadable music, the question arises: How much longer will physical
CD sales factor into the equation of environmental impact?

With the move to digital music, the industry may be exchanging one type
of environmentally destructive practice for another. With 200 million
MP3 players sold globally in 2006, there are a lot of heavy metal,
plastic and chemical-based devices out there for which there are
limited recycling plans.

"A lot of people assume that the digital future is a panacea for
environmental issues but it’s not the case," Werde says, pointing to
Greenpeace’s recent excoriation of the environmentally irresponsible
practices of Apple, seller of 100 million iPods.

"When Greenpeace says that Apple puts crap into the environment, it
reflects back to the positioning of your brand," he explains. "If, like
Apple, your brand is known as hip, savvy and aware, your environmental
practices need to be consistent with that."

Werde points out that Sony recently unveiled a few different
eco-friendly product prototypes, including headphones and a
solar-powered battery charger. "That Sony is finding solutions to these
problems shows that companies are waking up to the consumer market’s
desire to be more environmentally responsible citizens."

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