What Price Acid House? How Green Is Your Music?


A final piece of a vinyl jigsaw arrived this week. Bought and paid for in June last year, Moine Dubh asked a postie to carefully push another seven inches through the letterbox and no damage occured.

Stupid thing is that, as much as I wanted to collect these little plastic treasures, I don't even own a record player. I wanted to buy and own music when there was no home option to ever hear the story, the passion, labour, skills, the craft. They could all be revealed if I put a microscopic piece of metal on a polymer and allow the reverberated indentations on said disc to become sound waves via electricity. There must be easier and greener ways to get music? Even Napster was faster than this.

There are so many options and avenues to present music to your earlobes these days, is it making this type of retro fetishism inexcusable?

"Depends if you got the first and subsequent ones as well. Charitably, I'd like to give you the benefit of the doubt."

Piers from Soft Rocks is one of those collectors.

"You're enthusiastic about SOMETHING, you're supporting a niche market, however deluded you are, you seem to care about physical, tangible artifacts. Maybe you're even planning on buying a turntable? Uncharitably you are a massive massive melt for reasons too obvious to state."

Caring about physical artefacts is a fine line. We sit and live on a pretty big one.

Having worked in music retail for two decades, my most exasperating and depressing moment happened while ending such days in Bromley. The store would have an enormous delivery every day. This "product" (which is all it had become) was not demanded by the customers of the UKIP friendly town and not ordered by the management team. It was just necessary to ship this plastic from one retail bolt-hole to another. Each time the value was reduced as the auctioneer, tax man and distributors tried to wring every single pence from "product" sold as Sale Or Return. Pallet upon pallet of yesterday's news, last year's talent show finalists and another shop's (sorry Leamington) mission to dissolve a month later.

Ian Salmon, another ex- Jack Russell affiliate and now playwright adds to this PVC smuggling operation. "An external company was brought in to close down my store and help shift the remaining ‘product’ (again, all it had become by then)".

"Along side that was various junk that they’d brought in to add to the ‘Closing Down Sale’ vibe. 'We did Woolworths’ closing down', they told me proudly, ‘and their sales went up by X%'". 

Dissolve. There's the rub.

Every single one of those CDs, in their jewel cases and 'Fancy Dan' librettos were manufactured. In a factory. Plastic made and melted. Shipped across continents. No environmental Air Miles there. Wrangled into more boxes and handled by more people travelling to work to move thousands and thousands of "units" from one warehouse to another. Massive lorries reversing into tiny towns, pumping obnoxious gases into the suburbs. All for what?

"I buy a lot of old records…. so I guess I'm saving landfill space", thinks Piers. "Saying that I also buy a lot of new records and then take them on aeroplanes. I'm sad to say that I've not given it that much thought."

For each crate-dug gem, there are a thousand Nana Mouskouri LPs sitting in Oxfams in less hip shops across the country. They were formed when a previous generation had more fossil fuels and less taste. Aren't we more aware now? What about our children?

This seemed a consistent unalloyed opinion. Stuart Leath from Emotional Response and other kin labels keeps it simple. "We are physical beings. Let's live that way as much as possible."  

Research on the impact that our love of Acid House (insert genre here) has on the environment is limited. The most recent was before the advent of high speed broadband but even then, it stated that downloading an album may produce 400 grams of CO2. Buying a physical album is three times that.

"I'd be surprised if that affirmation was true to be honest". Samuel Berdah from Days Of Being Wild (with both digital and vinyl releases on the label), is non-plussed too.

"Soundcloud is a weird model for artists. It's the only streaming platform on which artists have to pay (and not the audience) to get their music online and never have any retribution. I suppose artists concerns should be at least considered…"

Anyway, we are still here (for now). This piece was supposed to be about Soundcloud. It's carbon footprint is nothing but the tiny toe-nail clippings of the afore-mentioned greenhouse gas chomping of yesteryear. And Bandcamp and iTunes and (unfortunately) Beatport.

The platform has this week announced a new "pay" model called 'Soundcloud Go'. It will offer for $10 per month the option to listen to music offline, again saving emissions by reducing streaming impacts. There will undoubtedly be a lot of chatter about "the artist", which is a worthy discussion. When they all get the percentiles needed, we can leave Earth and colonise them.

The only political party to consider this was unsurprisingly The Green Party:

"We will support the development of technology that promises to benefit society and the planet, However we believe that technology must be regulated as outcomes may be malign. We do not believe that technological fixes alone will deal with the serious problems facing the planet."

Stream that.

Thanks to Piers Soft Rocks, Ian Salmon,  Stuart Leath and Samuel Berdah for their time and contributions.