Mind over matter: why people in music are now looking for alcohol alternatives

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Celebrating with bandmates, enjoying a few at a gig, getting the creativity flowing… drinking alcohol is often seen at the centre of working in the UK music industry. However, according to the latest British Lifestyles report by Mintel, 20% of UK adults now don’t drink and of those that do drink, 47% have cut back.

This is now translating into music, as artists, producers, A&Rs and more are reacting against the peer pressure to drink. They’re prioritising a clear head over hangovers, to allow them to be as creative as possible, work hard and move forward successfully in the industry.

We spoke to three key figures in music about why they think drinking alcohol is declining amongst their peers.

Stuart Drake is the lead singer of rock/indie band PEAK. After getting bored of alcohol being his go-to remedy, he decided to get his head clear. Although he’s only been sober a short while, Stuart thinks it’s positively affecting his creativity. “It’s easier to sit down and spend a lot more time writing ‘cause I’m not an hour in, nearly a bottle of whiskey down and ready for bed!”

Stuart thinks more people in the industry are drinking less because society today is more “health conscious”, which is a good thing. “Drink is so easily available, it’s the legal medicine… but it’s a thing now to be healthy.”

Does he think there’s peer pressure to drink in the music industry?

“Definitely. It’s a social thing, and if you tell people you’re in a band and you don’t drink it ain’t ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ is it. The bible says you gotta go mad at it! I loved a drink man, and I haven’t HAD to stop, but since stopping people are shocked, some people actually find it so out there that I haven’t touched a drop and don’t plan to return.”

Stuart’s band PEAK has just released an EP - Photo @peakband

Stuart’s band PEAK has just released an EP - Photo @peakband

Mark Piddington is Founder, Producer and Director of Rawsound TV, an online channel showcasing the best in live music. He thinks there’s always been pressure to conform to perceived standards within music “especially amongst the younger and more influenced people”, which is perhaps why drinking got so out of hand in the industry in the first place.

He chose to stop drinking as it didn’t suit his lifestyle anymore. “It has had a really positive effect on me and my work. Alcohol always had a negative effect on creativity for me.”

Mark believes his peers are realising now there’s a whole world beyond drinking. “People generally are drinking less or giving up completely due to more research into the negative effects of heavy alcohol consumption and alternative lifestyle choices.”

However, there’s not enough choice of non-alcoholic drinks in venues. “What is usually on offer is full of sweeteners and extremely overpriced.” On a night out, he ends up just drinking “coffee or water”.

Mark Piddington works for RawSound TV - Photo by Danielle M Clarke Photography

Mark Piddington works for RawSound TV - Photo by Danielle M Clarke Photography

Mark Davyd is Founder and CEO of Music Venue Trust, a charity which acts to protect, secure and improve Grassroots Music Venues. Although not tee-total himself, he thinks there’s a problem with excess drinking in the industry.

“We not only have large amounts of time in which we are waiting for things to happen (waiting for the soundcheck, waiting for the doors, waiting to go on), but we have also created immediate access to frightening amounts of alcohol while that waiting is happening.”

He does think that people in music are becoming more aware of the negative connotations of excess drinking though, partly due to a generational change. “Many people now entering the music industry have never drunk. There’s been a lot of conversations in the industry about managing health and wellbeing.”

He agrees with Mark Piddington that there’s not enough choice in music venues for people not drinking, because they’re not sure it’s financially viable yet. “Most venues have limited areas in which to sell drinks. Each square metre of stock matters, so the commercial question is, what level of that square meterage can you dedicate to non-alcoholic?”

He would like to see non-alcoholic beers being offered in venues, something he sees as an obvious choice. Mark believes we’re well behind Europe in our offerings of alcohol free in music venues.

“A recent visit to Budapest, for example, showed most venues offering more than 20 different [alcohol free] drink options, many of them carefully prepared as almost cocktail style options. The price of the drink itself has been maintained, it’s only the alcohol that has been removed.”

It sounds like whilst sobriety in music is only increasing in popularity, venues are sticking to what they know: alcohol. Here at Pistonhead, we offer a non-alcoholic version of our cult lager, Flat Tire, which works as an excellent introduction into the alcohol-free lifestyle. It tastes the same, just without the hangover! With more alcohol free options coming on the market all the time, hopefully music venues can soon catch up with the booming sober movement in the industry.

Pistonhead have a non-alcoholic version of their Flat Tire lager

Pistonhead have a non-alcoholic version of their Flat Tire lager

Many thanks to our contributors for helping us with this article.

PEAK’s debut EP has just launched, find it on Spotify or it’s available to buy at HMV Manchester

Or follow PEAK and Stuart on social @peakband

Catch Mark Piddington presenting RawSound TV here: rawsoundtv.com/

Or follow them on social @rawsoundtv

Check out Mark Davyd’s amazing charity Music Venue Trust here: musicvenuetrust.com/

Or follow them on social @musicvenuetrust

Are you a venue or creative looking for support? Perhaps you need non-alcoholic beer for an event? Get in touch via our website www.pistonheadfoundationuk.com/support

If you’re in the music industry and suffering with an alcohol or drug addiction, Music Support is a charity that offers a 24/7 helpline www.musicsupport.org/what-we-do