For every hour that American teens listen to music, they hear more than three references to brand-name alcohol -- about 34 in the course of day.
This heavy exposure could contribute to youth addiction, according to a University of Pittsburgh and Dartmouth University study published online today in the international journal, Addiction.
Researchers point the finger clearly at rap, R&B and hip-hop artists, who they say promote a "luxury lifestyle characterized by degrading sexual activity, wealth, partying, violence and the use of drugs."
Although the alcohol trade industries publicly say they do not market to underage drinkers, researchers said the line is "difficult to distinguish" because liquor companies "retroactively reward" the recording artists with product sponsorships and endorsements when songs climb the charts.
This music is so popular among high school students that the study concludes the relationship between the two industries could encourage young people to begin alcohol use early and to continue drink throughout their teenage years.
Many of the brands that are cited in lyrics -- Patron Tequila, Grey Goose Vodka and Hennessey Cognac -- are those named as favorites by underage drinkers, especially girls, according to the study, authored by Brian A. Primack, Erin Nuzzo and Kristin R. Rice of University of Pittsburgh Medical School and James D. Sargent of Dartmouth University School of Medicine.
Most of the alcohol references in those songs were positive rather than negative ones, they said. The brand names were associated with wealth 63.4 percent of the time; sex, 58.5 percent; luxury objects, 51.2 percent; partying, 48.8 percent; other drugs, 43.9 percent and vehicles, 39 percent, according to the study.
"Much of the alcohol advertising is "unsolicited," said Frank Coleman, spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS). "As part of the entertainment industry, we encourage artistic freedom and we encourage all great artists, if they use alcohol as their muse, to do so responsibly. That's a given."
He also cited 2010 government statistics in a University of Michigan study, Monitoring the Future, that showed underage drinking and binge drinking were at "an all-time low" -- even, according to Coleman, as the popularity of rap music soared.
But the study cited CDC data that alcohol use is the "leading root cause" of mortality in adolescence, and its use is associated with substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, academic failure and alcohol dependence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42 percent of high schools students drank some amount of alcohol and 24 percent binge drank in 2009.
The study analyzed 793 of the most popular youth songs between 2005 and 2007, according to Billboard magazine. They found that 25 percent of those that mentioned alcohol called out a brand name, representing about 3.4 alcohol brand call-outs per song hour. The average teen listens to about 2.5 hours of music per day, according to the research.
Many singers have also increasingly promoted their own line of liquors in their songs and even launched their own unique brands -- including Lil' Jon (Little Jonathan Wineries, 2008), Ludacris (Conjure Vodka, 2009), Jay-Z (Armadale Vodka, 2002), Snoop Dogg (Landy Cognac, 2008), TI (Remy Martin Cognac, 2010) and Sean "P. Diddy" Combs (Ciroc Vodka, 2001).