Billie Eilish Defends Criticizing Artist Sustainability Practices


In an effort to raise awareness about the music industry’s sustainability practices, or lack thereof, Billie Eilish is highlighting the ways in which artists — herself included — can avoid feeding into the cycle of overconsumption. In a recent interview with Billboard, the musician called out the “wasteful,” yet popularized, trend of artists releasing multiple vinyl variants with slight differences in artwork or track listing to encourage more purchases. But the point of her criticism was nearly overshadowed by speculation about whether she was subtly calling out anyone in particular.

“It would be so awesome if people would stop putting words into my mouth and actually read what I said in that Billboard article. I wasn’t singling anyone out, these are industry-wide systemic issues,” Eilish wrote in a statement shared via Instagram Stories over the weekend. “When it comes to variants, so many artists release them — including ME! Which I clearly state in the article. The climate crisis is now and it’s about all of us being part of the problem and trying to do better. Sheesh.”

Eilish’s original comments focused mainly on the scale of the artists who most engage in these practices as well as the driving force behind these multiple releases. “It’s some of the biggest artists in the world making fucking 40 different vinyl packages that have a different unique thing just to get you to keep buying more,” Eilish told Billboard. “It’s so wasteful, and it’s irritating to me that we’re still at a point where you care that much about your numbers and you care that much about making money — and it’s all your favorite artists doing that shit.”

The pushback to the statement came in large part from Taylor Swift’s fanbase. Swift has released vinyl packages with varying colors, covers, and bonus content for her recent releases, including 1989 (Taylor’s Version), Midnights, and the forthcoming The Tortured Poets Department. Swift has also received heat for the carbon emissions from her private jet, making sustainability and environmental protection something of a touchy subject for Swifties, who are quick to jump to her defense.

But musicians including Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Harry Styles, Ed Sheeran and more have also released multiple pressings for their album releases. Eilish herself released at least a dozen for Happier Than Ever. But she never claimed she wasn’t complicit.

“It is right in front of our faces and people are just getting away with it left and right, and I find it really frustrating as somebody who really goes out of my way to be sustainable and do the best that I can and try to involve everybody in my team in being sustainable,” Eilish added. “I was watching The Hunger Games and it made me think about it, because it’s like, we’re all going to do it because [it’s] the only way to play the game. It’s just accentuating this already kind of messed up way of this industry working.”

Eilish, who spoke alongside her mother, Maggie Baird, in the interview, detailed her approach to promoting sustainability in everything from vinyl packaging (she’s released some pressings made from recycled materials), transportation, food, and most particularly, her merch. “It’s about how it feels and how it looks and how it’s made,” she explained. “And so the problem is to make sure that my clothing is being made well and ethically and with good materials and it’s very sustainable and that it feels good and is durable. It’s going to be more expensive.” She also reduced the amount of merchandise being created for drops, Baird added.

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The hope, as they expressed, is that the small things will add up to big changes. But the industry often prioritizes profit over the planet and the people who live on it.

“We know from research that fans are more likely to take action if they believe the artist is authentic. Which I think unfortunately scares off a lot of artists because they’re like, ‘Well, I don’t want to say I’m trying to do X because I’m not perfect on Y,’” Baird stated. “That’s a barrier that is really challenging to break, especially with social media and the culture of cancel and hate. The truth is, you just have to do it anyway. Artists can cast a giant shadow of influence. If you’re not perfect, but you are influencing many, many, many people to do better, it’s multiplied hundreds of times.”



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