It is often said that fans at live concerts give the band an electric shock. Coldplay literally wants to exploit this.
The pop superstars have added kinetic dance floors and energy-storage stationary bikes to their latest world tour, encouraging fans to help fuel the show by dancing or spinning.
This is part of a larger effort to make the tour more environmentally friendly. The band – whose songs include the aptly titled ‘Higher Power’ – have pledged to be as sustainable and low-carbon as possible, hoping to cut their CO2 emissions by 50%.
“You don’t want to sound too serious. This stuff is also a lot of fun,” bassist Guy Berryman said. “That’s how it’s going to be, if people see it less as some sort of onerous responsibility and more as some sort of opportunity to do something fun and it’s a benefit to the environment and for the whole concert experience.”
Each kinetic dance floor can accommodate dozens of people, with electricity created when movement is performed on it. The band holds pre-show contests to see which group of fans can generate the most power, fueled by House of Pain’s “Jump Around”.
And each of the bikes – a minimum of 15 but can be expanded depending on venue size – can generate an average of 200 watts of power, captured in batteries that run elements of the show.
Coldplay are just one music group working to reduce the effects of the climate footprint of their tours, 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 relationship of any other public figure. It can be a walking and telling example,” said Adam Gardner, founder and co-executive director of Reverb, an organization at non-profit that helps bands make their gigs greener, it doesn’t help Coldplay’s tour.
The artists reflect a global push in the entertainment sphere – from sports teams to toymakers – to reduce their carbon footprint. A Live Nation study found that 82% of live music fans said they make an effort to maintain an eco-friendly lifestyle.
“Being green is not some kind of charity exercise in self-flagellation, holier than you. It’s a good business model. That’s what we’d like to show,” said Chris Martin, the Coldplay frontman and guitarist Jonny Buckland added, “It’s gotta work.”
Efforts involve everything from providing more plant-based food options at concessions and eliminating single-use plastic to redesigning transportation — the greenest aspect of touring — for musicians. and the fans.
Eilish has pledged to eliminate around 35,000 single-use water bottles from her tour and only serves vegetarian food backstage. The Massive Attack band travels by train, and Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour” merchandise is sustainably dyed and 100% organic cotton.
Mendes is committed to reducing the environmental impact and emissions of his tour by 50% per show, using sustainable fabrics in hoodies and t-shirts, staying in hotels that commit to zero clean emission, eliminating plastic and using sustainable aviation fuel. Styles’ recent tour had battery recycling centers and he donated unused hotel toiletries to shelters.
Coldplay plans to minimize air travel – but when flights are needed, the group will opt for commercial over charter – and use trains and electric vehicles whenever possible. The trucks will use alternative fuels like hydrotreated vegetable oil.
“We looked at every aspect of the show because there’s not one thing you can do that makes a significant overall difference. It’s just all those changes you make that add up to something more impressive overall,” Berryman said. “Hopefully it will have that ripple effect across our industry.”
The “Music of the Spheres” tour stage uses recycled steel, and the band hopes to deploy 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 from batteries, never needing the grid or diesel generators.
“We’re very lucky to have the resources to be able to do this because it’s very expensive to try these things for the first time,” Martin said. “We are so privileged that we are in a position where we can change.”
There are also biodegradable confetti, compostable wristbands for the audience, the use of solar panels and the backstage generator is powered by vegetable oil. All band merchandise is sustainably and ethically sourced and 10% of net tour revenue will go to environmental organizations such as The Ocean Cleanup and One Tree Planted.
“We try to do this in a fairly pragmatic and professional way so that we don’t come across as leftist lunatics. But it’s quite centrist and practical,” Martin said.
Coldplay drummer Will Champion said the new green technology could be useful for other bands just starting out on tour and hopes all bands can share their experiences on what works and what doesn’t.
“The more there are and the more people take initiative and come up with new ideas, the faster it becomes the industry standard,” he said. “When it swings to the point where it’s a no-brainer because it costs the same or less than traditional methods of doing it, that’s when the floodgates open and we make significant changes.”
But change has not always been smooth. Coldplay has been accused of greenwashing because it partnered with Neste, which bills itself as the world’s largest producer of sustainable biofuels.
Transport and Environment, a Brussels-based environmental organization, said Neste had “documented links to deforestation and questionable biofuels”, such as palm oil or its by-products. But Neste replied 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 their best,” Carlos Calvo Ambel, senior director of transportation and environment, said of Coldplay, “but maybe they picked the wrong consultant.”
Reverb, which has helped other groups navigate the complexities of greening since 2004, offers everything from free water stations to sourcing local organic and family food close to the venue. The nonprofit has helped avoid the use of 4 million single-use water bottles since its inception, she says.
“Our philosophy is that it’s not all or nothing. I think if we force people to do everything at once, most of them won’t choose anything,” said Gardner, who is also a touring musician with his band Guster.
“Some artists we work with are ready to go all out and some are looking at the things they are able to change right away. And I think the most important thing is to start.
Coldplay is not only committed to reducing its own carbon footprint. He also encourages his audience to do the same on the way to the venue.
There’s a free app for fans that calculates and categorizes the different ways to get to the concert – car, public transport, taxi, bike and train, included – with rewards such as discounts on merchandise for those who book. are committed to making trips that are more respectful of the environment. The band also hopes to make free local public transportation available to fans in America and Europe.
“Everything about our show is really designed to get everyone in the same band, singing together and wearing the bracelets. And it’s just an extension of that. It makes us feel alive. It makes us feel like to be part of a community,” Martin said.