Does Music Have A Drinking Problem?

22 February 2024 | 12:36 pm | Mary Varvaris

24% of the 12,224 songs analysed referenced alcohol in some way, including imagery in music videos and lyrics.

Drinks poured at a bar

Drinks poured at a bar (Credit: Holly Engelhardt)

La Trobe University has shared findings after conducting a study into alcohol references in popular music. The analysis was done after a report was published in the Alcohol, Clinical and Experimental Research journal.

Reviewing 23 studies that examined the prevalence of alcohol-related references in song lyrics and music videos, La Trobe University went a step further and explored other studies that delved into the associations between alcohol references in music and real-life drinking behaviours.

According to La Trobe PhD student and project researcher Gedefaw Alen, a surprising 24% of 12,224 songs analysed referenced alcohol in some way, including imagery in music videos and lyrics.

Alen found that many references were “explicit” in their mentions of alcoholic beverages themselves, drinking behaviours, settings with alcohol involved (especially bars), brands and other spotlighting of alcohol.

In a statement, Alen said, “It is more important than ever to understand the influence of alcohol-related lyrics on our drinking behaviour because we found that both the number of songs that include a reference to alcohol and the amount of time people spend listening to music are increasing.”

You can read the full report here.

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While there may be a problem with alcohol in song, it’s not presenting as much when punters go to shows.

According to a recent The Music report, patrons are actually drinking 70% less at small-to-medium-sized Australian music venues. At the same time, the Federal Government introduced an alcohol tax, the third highest in the world, earlier this month. It has meant two payments a year for operators and added an extra 90 cents on a pint of beer.

Last year, The Music’s Ellie Robinson explored why people aren’t getting “trashed” at concerts anymore. While the cost of living certainly factors into punters’ decisions at gigs ($14 for a pint is a bit ridiculous), Lochlan Watt – host of The Racket on triple j and frontman of metal band RUN – believes we’re witnessing a “modest resurgence” in straight-edge culture from younger gig-goers.

In 2022, however, the Raising Their Voices report into sexual harassment, sexual harm and systemic discrimination in the Australian contemporary music industry laid bare the industry's alcohol problem, delving into an unusual and unprofessional co-dependence. 

One of the report's recommendations suggested that the industry develops and implement consistent alcohol and other drug policies across the music industry with the assistance of expert advisers to ensure compliance with work health and safety obligations and the principle of harm minimisation.