NEW YORK — It is said that fans give artists an electric shock at live concerts. Coldplay wants to take advantage of that, literally.
The popular group added kinetic dance floors and energy-storing stationary bikes to its latest world tour, encouraging fans to help power the show as they dance or pedal.
It’s part of a larger effort to make the tour more environmentally friendly. The band, whose songs include “Higher Power,” committed to being as sustainable and low-carbon as possible in hopes of reducing its CO2 emissions by 50%.
“You don’t want to sound too serious. This is also a lot of fun,” said Coldplay bassist Guy Berryman. “That way it will settle down, if people see it less as some kind of onerous responsibility and more as some kind of opportunity to do something fun and benefit the environment and the whole concert experience.”
Each kinetic dance floor can hold dozens of people, with electricity created when movement is made on them. The band holds pre-show contests to see which group of fans can generate the most energy, fueled by the song “Jump Around” by House of Pain.
And each of the bikes — a minimum of 15, but can be expanded based on venue size — can generate an average of 200 watts of power, captured in batteries that power elements of the show.
Coldplay is just one group of music artists working to reduce the effects of their touring energy footprints, a list that includes Billie Eilish, Harry Styles, The Lumineers, Dave Matthews Band, Shawn Mendes, Maroon 5, John Mayer , Lorde, The Chicks, Jason Isbell and The 1975.
“The relationship musicians have with millions of their fans is unlike any other public figure’s relationship. They can be a walking, talking example,” said Adam Gardner, founder and co-CEO of Reverb, a nonprofit organization. that helps bands make their concerts more eco-friendly.
The artists reflect a broader effort by the entertainment world — from sports teams to toymakers — to reduce their carbon footprint. A study by Live Nation found that 82% of attendees of live music events said they strive to maintain an environmentally sustainable lifestyle.
“Being green is not some kind of charitable exercise in self-flagellation, being holier than you. It’s a good business model. That’s what we’d like to show,” said Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin. Guitarist Jonny Buckland added, “It has to work.”
The efforts they involve everything from providing more plant-based food options at concessions and eliminating single-use plastic, to rethinking transportation, the most environmentally demanding aspect of touring for both musicians and fans.
Eilish has pledged to eliminate some 35,000 single-use water bottles from her tour and only serves vegetarian food backstage. The band Massive Attack travels by train, and Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour” merchandise is sustainably dyed and 100% organic cotton.
Mendes has pledged to reduce the environmental impact and emissions of his tour by 50% per show, using sustainable fabrics in tour hoodies and t-shirts, staying in hotels that commit to net-zero emissions, eliminating plastic and using fuel. sustainable aviation. Styles’ recent tour had battery recycling centers and donated unused hotel toiletries to shelters.
Coldplay plans to minimize air travel, but when flights are necessary, the band will opt for commercial flights over charters, using trains and electric vehicles whenever possible. The trucks will use alternative fuels such as hydrotreated vegetable oil.
“We’ve looked at every aspect of the show because there’s nothing you can do that makes a significant difference overall. Basically, all these changes you make add up to something more impressive overall,” Berryman said. “Hopefully it will have this ripple effect throughout our industry.”
The stage for their “Music of the Spheres” tour uses recycled steel, and the band hopes to implement the world’s first touring battery system, made from 40 reused and recyclable BMW electric car batteries. The hope is to power the entire show with batteries, never needing grid power or diesel generators.
“We’re very blessed to have the resources to be able to do it because it’s so expensive to try these things out for the first time,” Martin said. “We are very privileged to be in a position where we can change.”
There is also biodegradable confetti, compostable wristbands for the audience, the use of solar panels, and the backstage generator runs on vegetable oil. All of the band’s merchandise is ethically and sustainably sourced, and 10% of net proceeds from the tour will go to environmental organizations like The Ocean Cleanup and One Tree Planted.
“We’re trying to do this in a way that’s quite pragmatic and professional so that we’re not written off as some kind of left-wing crackpot. But it’s quite centrist and practical,” Martin said.
Coldplay drummer Will Champion said the new green technology can be useful for other bands just starting to tour and he hopes all artists can share experiences on what works and what doesn’t.
“The more it gets out there and the more people take the initiative and come up with new ideas, the faster it will become the industry standard,” he said. “When that gets to the point where it’s a no-brainer because it costs the same or less than traditional ways of doing it, the floodgates will open and we’ll make a significant change.”
But the change has not always been smooth. Coldplay has been accused of greenwashing for partnering with Neste, which bills itself as the world’s largest producer of sustainable biofuels.
Transport and Environment, a Brussels-based environmental organization, said Neste has “documented links to deforestation and dubious biofuels” such as palm oil or its derivatives. But Neste responded that “conventional palm oil” was not used as a “raw material” in the Coldplay collaboration and hopes to end the use of conventional palm oil by 2023.
“They’re doing everything they can,” Transport and Environment senior director Carlos Calvo Ambel said of Coldplay, “but maybe they picked the wrong adviser.”
Reverb, which has been helping bands overcome the complexities of going green since 2004, offers everything from free water stations to sourcing local organic food from nearby family farms. The nonprofit has helped prevent the use of 4 million non-reusable water bottles since its inception, he says.
“Our philosophy is that it’s not all or nothing. I think if we force people to do everything at once, most will choose to do nothing,” said Gardner, who is also a touring musician with his band Guster.
“Some artists we work with are ready to go full-on and others are looking at things that can change right away. I think the most important thing is to get started,” he added.
Coldplay is not only committed to reducing its own carbon footprint. You’re also creating incentives for your audience to do the same on the way to your concerts.
There’s a free app for fans that calculates and ranks different ways to travel to the concert (car, public transportation, taxi, bike, and train included) with rewards like merchandise discounts for those who commit to greener travel. the band too hopes to be able to offer free local public transportation to the concert to its fans in the United States and Europe.
“Everything in our show is really designed to bring everyone together in the same group, singing together and wearing the wristbands. And this is just an extension of that. It makes us feel alive. It makes us feel part of a community,” she said. Martin.