Primack-Led Study Finds U.S. Kids Heavily Exposed to Alcohol Brands in Music

Issue Date: 
November 7, 2011

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have found that the average U.S. adolescent is heavily exposed to alcohol brand references in popular music, according to a study published online Oct. 20 in the international journal Addiction.

Branded alcohol references are most common in rap, R&B, and hip hop songs, and are often associated with a luxury lifestyle characterized by degrading sexual activity, wealth, partying, violence, and the use of drugs, according to the study, which was led by Brian Primack, assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics in Pitt’s School of Medicine.

Researchers analyzed 793 of the most popular songs in the youth market between 2005 and 2007 and reported that a brand name was included in a song about 25 percent of the time alcohol was mentioned, representing about 3.4 alcohol brand references per song-hour. Given that the average adolescent is exposed to about 2.5 hours of popular music per day, young people’s annual exposure to alcohol brand references in popular music is substantial, the study reported. Consequences associated with alcohol were more often positive than negative (41.5% vs. 17.1%). Alcohol brand appearances were commonly associated with wealth (63.4%), sex (58.5%), luxury objects (51.2%), partying (48.8%), other drugs (43.9%), and vehicles (39%).

“Frequent exposure of young people to brand-name references in popular music may constitute a form of advertising and could encourage substance use among adolescents,” Primack said.

Primack said brand-name references to alcohol are typically strongly aligned with positive feelings and associations, which are often the goal of advertisements. The brands found in music represent the same distilled spirits brands that are increasingly named as favorites by underage drinkers, especially women.

The authors suggest that the relatively high level of brand-name alcohol appearances in popular music may be a consequence of strengthening ties between the alcohol and music industries. Some alcohol companies have formally entered the music industry, such as Seagram’s ownership of Universal and Polygram, between 1995 and 2001.