Digital music streams could harm the environment even more than compact discs – so green-minded operators should introduce caching, or even ship their entire catalogues on a single chip.
“Streaming or downloading 12 tracks, without compression, just 27 times by one user would, in energy terms, equate to the production and shipping of one physical 12-track CD album,” writes report author Dagfinn Bach.
“Repeated streaming of individual tracks may not necessarily be a desirable long-term solution with respect to energy consumption for the life cycle of a sound recording.”
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Bach forecasts global data traffic hitting 1 yottabyte by 2027 could require more than a fifth of the planet’s 2010 electricity consumption – something which “depends on sprawling server farms and a complex, energy- sapping network infrastructure”.
Spotify’s app already has a kind of built-in local cache to avoid the necessity to repeat song streams. Bach says “a ‘close-to-consumer’ cloud solution might be the most environmentally-friendly option” for online content delivery.
Cut out the cloud?
But he also moots more radical options for reducing streaming’s carbon footprint. A 1 petabyte drive capable of storing all the songs ever recorded could soon cost just $100, Bach says, observing Moore’s Law.