Musicians, singers and bands can use their popularity to promote various causes and products, either through endorsements or more individual initiatives. Environmental activism is becoming more widespread as humans are trying to tackle and mitigate climate change. In this paper, we ask how best a band can compensate for the carbon emissions generated by fans travelling to its shows. We first report on the various “green” initiatives and practices of the music industry. We then focus on greenhouse gas emissions that result from tours and concerts since they are one of the largest environmental impacts generated by the music industry. We take the perspective of the artist or band wishing to internalize their carbon emissions and present a model of carbon offsets in the context of rock concerts, which amounts to the private provision of a public good. In our model, bands have the option to include offsets in the ticket price or to offer voluntary offsets. To illustrate our point, we present a field study conducted by a Quebec rock band at shows in Montreal and in Europe to show how the artists can reduce the environmental impact of their concert by buying carbon credits equivalent to their fans’ footprint. We show that at 1 % of the ticket price on average, the cost of carbon offsets is marginal and discuss the numerous challenges that arise for those artists wanting to engage in carbon offsetting.
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These include, among others, market structure and pricing issues, the resale market of concert tickets, income distribution and superstar effects, and creation and copyright protection (Connolly and Krueger 2006; Leslie and Sorensen 2014; Sá and Turkay 2013; Courty and Pagliero 2013; Waldfogel 2013).
See http://www.musicradar.com/news/guitars/blog-u2-vs-radiohead-in-ecology-wars-212837 for an example of the U2 versus Radiohead debates among ecologists.
The formulation of Eq. (1) implicitly assumes that the WTP is independent of the pricing option. That may not always be the case. For example, according to theories of collective action (Olson 1971), costs to act (or their opposite benefits from action) may be lower (higher) when participation is mandatory. In that light, the proposition derived later in the paper could be interpreted as a lower bound for choosing option B, meaning that option could be even more attractive than the result we obtain.
Offset prices could be tied to the specific emissions of individual concertgoers as they are linked to specific flight distance in the airline industry. However, there is no reliable method to elicit those emissions in the case of a musical event and we consider this to be private information to the event participant.
Most WTP estimates for carbon offsets result from stated preferences studies, in particular contingent valuation methods. Estimates vary widely. Brouwer et al. (2008) find an average WTP of US$30 per tonne of CO2 e for airline passengers. But estimates in other contexts range from US$4 (Li et al. 2004) to US$300 (Viscusi and Zeckhauser 2006) per tonne of CO2 e.
Additional summary statistics on the sample are available in the Appendix.
The median is the $CAN50-75 category (see Appendix Table 3).
The ranking used, from the most polluting to the least, is as follows: plane, car, train, public transportation and others (bike and walk).
Pt is for public transportation.
See Figure A1 in the Appendix.
The OLS regression line can be plotted according to the Frisch–Waugh theorem in a scatterplot in which the residuals of the additional WTP are on the y-axis and the residuals of the logarithm of offset costs on the x-axis, where the residuals come from regressions of the variable in question on the rest of the control variables. See Figure A2 in the Appendix for an illustration.
The costs are based on the estimates from p. 8 of Best Foot Forward (2007), using the per-fan emissions and multiplying by $CAN25, the social cost of carbon emissions (C) as described in Sect. 4.3.
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We thank participants at the ACEI 2014 conference and SEA 2015 annual meetings as well as the editor and an anonymous referee for comments and suggestions. We also recognize the helpful contribution of Jérémy Laurent-Luchetti. All errors are our own.
Conflict of interest
Dupras is the bass player of the rock band Les Cowboys Fringants. Connolly and Séguin declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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Connolly, M., Dupras, J. & Séguin, C. An economic perspective on rock concerts and climate change: Should carbon offsets compensating emissions be included in the ticket price?. J Cult Econ 40, 101–126 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10824-015-9265-2