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Alcohol brand appearances in US popular music


Brian A. Primack, Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 230 McKee Place #600, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA. E-mail:


Aims  The average US adolescent is exposed to 34 references to alcohol in popular music daily. Although brand recognition is an independent, potent risk factor for alcohol outcomes among adolescents, alcohol brand appearances in popular music have not been assessed systematically. We aimed to determine the prevalence of and contextual elements associated with alcohol brand appearances in US popular music.

Design  Qualitative content analysis.

Setting  We used Billboard Magazine to identify songs to which US adolescents were most exposed in 2005–07. For each of the 793 songs, two trained coders analyzed independently the lyrics of each song for references to alcohol and alcohol brand appearances. Subsequent in-depth assessments utilized Atlas.ti to determine contextual factors associated with each of the alcohol brand appearances.

Measurements  Our final code book contained 27 relevant codes representing six categories: alcohol types, consequences, emotional states, activities, status and objects.

Findings  Average inter-rater reliability was high (κ = 0.80), and all differences were easily adjudicated. Of the 793 songs in our sample, 169 (21.3%) referred explicitly to alcohol, and of those, 41 (24.3%) contained an alcohol brand appearance. Consequences associated with alcohol were more often positive than negative (41.5% versus 17.1%, P < 0.001). Alcohol brand appearances were associated commonly with wealth (63.4%), sex (58.5%), luxury objects (51.2%), partying (48.8%), other drugs (43.9%) and vehicles (39.0%).

Conclusions  One in five songs sampled from US popular music had explicit references to alcohol, and one-quarter of these mentioned a specific alcohol brand. These alcohol brand appearances are associated commonly with a luxury life-style characterized by wealth, sex, partying and other drugs.