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Sustainability concerns have flipped many companies’ founding policies upside down. Now more than ever, no matter the industry, consumers are choosing brands that value sustainability over companies that do not. This concept has become increasingly prominent in the clothing and cosmetics industry, but consumers are also considering manufacturing in the music industry.

Venues, artists, and concert-goers are beginning to entertain more sustainable ways of making music. Consumers are researching companies, their carbon footprints, and other sustainability measures. Informed consumers can make or break a company. 

The Issues in the Guitar Industry

The guitar industry, has been shrouded in controversy for things like illegal logging, resource scarcity, and new environmental regulations related to trade in endangered species of trees.

Around 2.6 million guitars are produced annually, making up a US$1 billion industry.

Contrary to the wood used in mass-produced furniture made up of species that help with quick production and low costs, guitars use rare woods from old-growth trees. This is because the slices of wood used on guitars are quartersawn: cut perpendicular to the tree’s growth rings to ensure stability and sound wave projection. The pieces must be large enough to become the instrument’s front face, backs, or sides, so massive stumps are required. 

According to a deep dive by The Conversation, up until now, only a select range of timber species was suitable for guitars since the instruments have to withstand a lot of wear and tear. Through centuries of European craft tradition, luthiers established spruces (Picea) that worked best as acoustic and classical guitar soundboards. The wood could be cut finely but also take the pressure of string strumming.

For the necks of the instrument, mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) or maple (Acer species) are the species of choice. Fretboards and bridges utilize ebony (Diospyros species) or rosewoods (Dalbergia species), and for acoustic guitar backs and sides, rosewoods and mahogany.

All this to say, it’s an intricate process that never necessarily considered climate repercussions until recently. Now, manufacturers and musicians are attempting to reverse climate-concerning practices. 

A More Sustainable Industry

Guitars are just one facet of instrument production. Woodwind and brass instruments are entirely different and equally complicated cans of worms. That’s why musicians and manufacturers, from classical to commercial music, are doing what they can. 

Guitar timber people are planting trees for sustainable instrument production on their properties and in partnership on cattle ranches and Indigenous-owned and managed lands. These efforts are guided by an ethic of care for trees, forests, communities, and guitars.

On a larger scale, Milan’s famous La Scala opera house is set to install solar panels on its new office’s roof. The Sydney Opera House has built an artificial reef in its surrounding waters to sustain marine life. Glyndebourne even created its own wind turbine. 

Commercial artists are even looking for ways to offset their contributions to the climate crisis. 

On Jack Johnson’s most recent tour, $2 from each concert ticket goes toward carbon offset projects and environmental nonprofit groups. $35,000 was raised from one show alone. Tanner Watt, director of partnership and development at the nonprofit REVERB, said that at every show, no matter the artist, “there’s always some footprint of waste.” But there are ways to curb it.

Last year’s United Kingdom-based Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research report said music industry stakeholders could help significantly reduce tour-related emissions by monitoring transportation and energy usage. These small steps can help keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial levels. Globally adored acts like Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, and Coldplay have all recently made climate pledges that cover transportation, venue procedures, and merchandise measures. 

Musicians and music manufacturers have a lot to consider during the ongoing climate crisis. As consumers and public figures are made more aware of their harmful habits, and the preference shifts towards sustainable companies and celebrity public figures, eco-friendly measures are a must-have in any market’s strategy. It’s crucial if they would like to remain popular and profitable.