Coldplay Commits to Sustainable Live Performance: NPR
James Marcus Haney
If you’re a live music fan, you already know your happy place is back. Many artists and bands are back on tour for the first time in over two years, including Coldplay. The band’s “Music of the Spheres” tour is Coldplay’s first since 2016, but the band’s tour hiatus actually began before the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the release of 2019 Daily life, Coldplay decided not to film, citing environmental concerns. But now the band are back and pledge to make this current tour “as sustainable and low-carbon as possible”.
Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin and lead guitarist Jonny Buckland recently spoke with All things Considered‘s Michel Martin on how the group plans to achieve this ambitious goal.
The following interview has been condensed and edited. To listen to the broadcast version of this story, use the audio player at the top of the page.
Michael Martin, All things Considered: This is your eighth tour and this is your first tour in six years. You started to rethink touring and it wasn’t because of COVID-19, it was because of your own sustainability concerns. start with [saying] how did you start thinking about it that way?
Chris Martin: We are lucky to be able to play in big buildings and stadiums, and it is an incredible thing in terms of human connection. But when you leave or when you arrive…there’s so much energy around, literally and figuratively. We realized on our last tour that this has a big impact when you’re hosting an event in a city and everyone has to travel to get there. We are very lucky to be able to experience certain things. We should think about how the next time we tour we can do things in a bit more environmentally conscious way.
Then we said this in a BBC interview and thought it was a stupid thing to say out loud. But what happened is all these inventors and thinkers contacted us and said, we built this and we designed a floor that creates energy when you jump up and down and we have these batteries. It has become a kind of exhibition for new technologies in terms of transport and animation of an event. I would say we’re still in our infancy, really, because it’s a long way to go.
It is a colossal undertaking. You cover every aspect of a tour, even calling on fans to use low-carbon transportation to get to the show. I can see where it’s exciting to try something new, but I wonder what some of the conversations between you guys were like?
Johnny Buckland: When Chris did this interview where he defined our goal in 2019, our first reaction was like —
Martin: You idiot!
Buckland: Oh my god, is that even possible? But then so much information started coming in and you start to feel a little more positive about the likelihood of being able to do this. But it is still extremely difficult. The fact that we still have to fly is a problem, and so we kind of try to get the most sustainable fuel we can for flying, but obviously that’s not a perfect solution, far from it.
This is a painful question, especially for your fans. But have you ever considered not touring at all?
Martin: Of course we did. Ultimately, the best thing we can all do for the environment is either disappear completely from the planet or go nowhere as humans. And so we have to recognize some – I don’t know if you call that selfishness or value some other elements of being human, which is connection and music. Our detractors could easily say that this would be a much better and preferable option for them. But we decided that we really wanted to tour and we want to show that another way of touring is possible, because even if we decided not to tour, a lot of people would continue to tour.
So you hope, in a way, to set an example?
Martin: We’re just trying to show what might be possible and not just possible from some sort of philanthropic motive – we want to prove that it makes good business sense. We understand that not everyone leans as left as we do. We want this to make sense, even if you’re a die-hard capitalist.
What excites you the most?
Martin: We have a bunch of bikes and then two areas of kinetic flooring, and those are the most fun because everyone can get involved. Every half hour or so we play “Jump Around” by House of Pain and people create energy, and then during the show people are on the bikes. I think that’s the most uplifting because you can really see the power of people, just like our life as a band is fueled by our audience. It literally gives us the electricity we need, or at least some of it.
Buckland: SAP has created an application for us that helps people plan their journeys in a more sustainable way. Which sounds a little boring, but somehow could easily be the most effective thing, even if it’s a tiny effect per person. The [are] so many people making these trips, the effect could actually be huge.
Martin: What really excites me is who might be at the concert [and] sees something working and then implements it in his school or mall, or is 9 years old and attends the concert, then in 10 years he will lead the city council. You just don’t know the ripple effect of this stuff.