How BTS and Blackpink Spotify streams add to climate-change problem – the energy used generates annual carbon emissions so big, whole forests need planting to offset them

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In the world of streaming, your favourite K-pop artist’s songs may be fuelling carbon emissions.

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Between mass streaming and growing album sales, both of which are great for artists but less so for the environment under current modes of consumption because of the energy they use, K-pop fans and artists alike are increasingly engaging with conversations about climate change.

In 2021, BTS spoke about taking climate action at the United Nations, while Blackpink were named advocates of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The fan-run activist group K-pop4Planet also kicked off last year, trying to raise awareness of climate action; fans of K-pop stars have a long history of planting forests to mark the birthdays of their favourite stars and other special occasions.

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But with more music being consumed than at any time in history, hitting it big on streaming platforms also means hitting it big in energy consumption.

artists, climate change, Uswitch,, spoke with the Post last year, global warming

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A chart showing the top 10 K-pop songs on Spotify in 2021, as well as their environmental impact and the cost to offset the carbon emissions produced by streaming energy.

Though no individual music listener’s impact is typically that intense, the popularity of certain artists and songs on streaming platforms like Spotify result in immense energy consumption, as does common K-pop fandom behaviour that promotes mass streaming to boost the chart rankings of artists.

According to data provided to the Post in relation to a recent study from Uswitch, the top 10 K-pop songs, all by BTS and Blackpink, streamed in 2021 on Spotify produced thousands of tons of carbon emissions over the past year.

Dynamite, BTS’s hit 2020 single, was the most streamed K-pop song of 2021 on Spotify, with over 1.19 billion streams on the music platform. Based on the Carbon Trust’s estimates for carbon emissions from hourly media streaming, the collective listens of Dynamite in 2021 would account for over 3,600 tons of carbon emissions. To offset this, over 151,000 trees would need to be planted to absorb those CO2 emissions.

Altogether, the top 10 most streamed K-pop songs on Spotify in 2021 would need around 760,000 trees planted over the 12-month period to offset their carbon emissions.

According to Kyle Devine, author of Decomposed: The Political Ecology of Music, who spoke with the Post last year about the ecological toll of fandom, the burden of ushering in change regarding energy consumption and streaming is on industry players rather than casual music listeners, but it’s good for fans to be conscious of the impact.

artists, climate change, Uswitch,, spoke with the Post last year, global warming

BTS with their awards at the 2021 American Music Awards in Los Angeles. Photo: Reuters/Aude Guerrucci

Spotify and other music and video streaming platforms have in recent years increasingly acknowledged the impact of their energy consumption on global warming, and have pledged to take steps to reduce the amount of energy used by their customers as they continue to grow their entertainment platforms.

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