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Hip hop & rap, country and pop have a surprising connection. Their artists often refer to alcohol in their lyrics as a source of inspiration, happiness or success. | Photo: Anthony Torres (Unsplash)
Hip hop & rap, country and pop have a surprising connection. Their artists often refer to alcohol in their lyrics as a source of inspiration, happiness or success. | Photo: Anthony Torres (Unsplash)
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TOP 5 Reasons Why to Make Music Sober

Dry January turned into dry February and soon we will be facing dry July and sober October.  So why not remind ourselves that alcohol isn't what it used to be – at least not in the music industry. Let's take a look at the top 5 reasons why it's better to be sober if you aspire to have a music career in 2023.

1. Times are changing

Studies by Boston University and Johns Hopkins University looked at lists of Billboard's most popular songs from 2009-2011. They identified 720 songs, of which a staggering 167 (23.2%) mentioned alcohol. The research data showed that the three music genres that featured alcohol the most were hip-hop/rap, country and pop.

Interestingly, 37.7% of rap and hip-hop songs with alcohol in the lyrics mentioned tequila, vodka, cognac and champagne. The second genre with the most frequent references to alcohol was country with 32% of mentions of "booze". Pop music came in third with 30.5% of songs containing alcohol. Unlike rap and hip hop, country and pop music lyrics most often bring up whiskey and beer.

By contrast, 26% of 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK are now teetotal, according to a 2022 survey by Drinkaware. And an August report by KAM and Lucky Saint found that almost a third of all pub visits are now alcohol-free.

Another interesting fact is that the soft drink market has grown by more than 506% since 2015, and Google searches for the word "sober" peaked in 2021 after the pandemic. Every day, the media is flooded with stories about Generation Z and even millennials getting sick of drinking and looking for other alternatives for entertainment or relaxation.

What replaced alcohol? Ketamine, marijuana and mushrooms still seem to be doing very well in terms of popularity, but in general, it seems that the younger generation just doesn't have the time, inclination and maybe even the money for parties and alcohol. Their world is different and their rejection of alcohol may be a kind of rebellion against their parents' generation. It's just not cool to hit the booze in 2023!

2. Sober celebrities

There are many reasons why a person chooses to abstain. Whether it is psychological, religious, medical, philosophical, social or political, or whether the person in question has been an alcoholic in the past. But sometimes it is simply a matter of taste or personal preference.

Be inspired by these celebrities who have completely eliminated alcohol from their lives: Elton John, Anthony Kiedis, Ozzy Osbourne, Florence Welch, Chris Martin, Lana Del Rey, Ringo Starr, Eminem, Alice Cooper, John 5, Gene Simmons, Paul Weller, Angus Young and Rob Zombie.

3. Better tour experiences

In the modern pop culture tradition, the musician often encounters a number of myths and prejudices about his or her profession. The "proper musician" is an indulgent, carefree bohemian who is constantly seeking an altered form of consciousness through an endless supply of alcohol and drugs. I remember playing at biker gatherings, where after the gig I was surrounded by a mix of Vikings, goblins, amateur bodybuilders and other variations on a huge guy with a tattoo and a shot in his hand who is completely smashed. It was unacceptable to refuse a drink in such company and after several weekends we became wild animals in the van, fed on baguettes from gas stations and maintaining three per mille of alcohol in our blood.

For music professionals, frequent playing is inevitable, and unless you want to end up on an IV drip at the nearest hospital, sooner or later you have to reduce or eliminate your alcohol consumption before and after playing to physically handle the load. Most professional bands playing world tours have a pretty strict policy on alcohol consumption, which is even confirmed in their contracts.

The enormous costs (now much higher than in the past) of organisation and logistics of international touring just don't give you room for the once cute drunken dancing on stage. The music business has shifted tremendously in this regard, and the audience no longer tolerates the manners of intoxicated rock stars.

4. More interesting alternatives

I have recently discovered the enthusiastic madman Wim Hof, who runs around Kilimanjaro in his shorts, gets encased in ice for hours or performs other stunts that test the limits of the human body. One of his quotes is "get high on your own supply". His method is based on three very simple rules: breathing, ice therapy and commitment.

I've tried everything myself and I can tell you that just by breathing you can get into some decent interplanetary galaxies. Well, and if you decide to take the ice route and dive into a freezing river in December, you'll sober up even if you have delirium tremens.

This is just one of the possibilities. Other methods and ways of achieving a balanced personality are also very popular. You can meditate, practice yoga, eat superfoods or do a thousand other activities that benefit your mental and physical health. But then, will you have enough inspiration to write juicy metal riffs or hardcore breakdowns? Who knows... but you can try. It's definitely trendy these days and I don't mind this trend at all.

5. Big Brother never sleeps

Young people who have grown up with the internet are wary of the risk that their drunken behaviour may be filmed and permanently posted on social networks. Gone are the nineties and the beginning of the new millennium when most of my stupid alcohol-related adventures took place. Sometimes I am happy that I survived without any long-term consequences.

I am equally grateful that no one has ever recorded these idiotic moments. In an age where everyone has a phone with a camera at their fingertips, passing out at a party, peeing in your neighbour's pool or punching an obtrusive fan can backfire pretty badly. There's an extremely high probability that some dude will film you in the most embarrassing situation and send it out into the world via their Facebook, Insta or another online social media platform and you'll never get rid of this Darwin's evidence of your temporary cretinism.

What about your experience with alcohol and playing? Have you sobered up from the feeling that a few drinks will turn your solo into an unforgettable experience? Let us know in the comments!

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Marek Bero
Bass Gym 101 books, touring & session bass player, football tactics aficionado.