Drugs have been a part of the music industry for as long as can be remembered. From rock stars coked up after-parties, to artists lighting up spliffs on stage, however much one may or may not like it, they have always been there. Drugs in the music industry is still as big a thing as it ever was, with many songs in the charts making reference to them and sometimes even glorifying the use of them. It has become such a common thing that people hardly notice when The Weeknd is proclaiming the effects of cocaine on I Can’t Feel My Face, or Rihanna is singing about dancing whilst on ecstasy on her track Diamonds.
There has to come the point though where you ask: where do you draw the line at musicians promoting and referencing drug use?
Of course it is common knowledge that a lot of musicians do, or once have dabbled with, some kind of drugs, but when is it taken too far that it is actually detrimental to an artist’s fan base?
Yesterday (10th April), British indie-rock band The Hunna announced a new addition to their merchandise line; a 4:20 t-shirt to celebrate the North American counterculture holiday where people gather to celebrate, and smoke, cannabis. The limited edition piece features the bands logo with an added cannabis leaf on the front and ‘4:20 light it up’ on the reverse. On the band’s social media accounts, they introduced the new t-shirt with:
‘LIGHT IT UP’ Hunna Limited Edition 420 tee’s are comin’! Smoke Swag Season
Is releasing merchandise promoting drug use crossing the line? I think so.
There is a difference between singing about drugs and writing about personal experiences with them, and making t-shirts with 4:20 on that applaud the use of cannabis. By putting that on your merchandise line, even if it is for a limited amount of time, you are saying that you indorse the celebration and use of marijuana.
The Hunna have every right to have those beliefs, but to share them with their fans, not just as an opinion, but on a printed t-shirt for sale, is irresponsible. This is made even more true given that the majority of their fans are teenage girls.
For most bands throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, their fan bases have idolised them and often looked up to them as role models. The Hunna are no exception to this. The young girls who go to their live shows and wait around to meet them afterwards do this because they love the band, look up to them, and would go to huge lengths to support them. Given that kind of dedication, releasing this t-shirt seems a surprising move by the four-piece, as they know too well that their adoring fans will snap up their merchandise in order to be that bit more committed to their favourite band.
Some might argue that The Hunna’s younger fans might not know what the 4:20 reference means. However unlikely this is, a quick google search and cannabis leaves are littered on the screen, a pretty obvious clue as to what the band are making reference to. But however naïve their fans may or may not be, that doesn’t take away from the fact that they are still promoting something illegal.
The band, however, go one step further.
As with every post The Hunna put on social media, this one led to hundreds of people commenting on the new t-shirt. After scrolling through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (where the post has since been deleted), it is hard to find any comments from people saying this t-shirt is a bad idea. Instead, remarks such as ‘if you thought The Hunna couldn’t get any better’ and people tagging their friends commenting ‘Jesus I need this’ and ‘let’s get these for the concert’ and thousands just as similar, are found.
Just like any band trying to strike a good relationship with their fans, The Hunna have replied to a lot of these comments, especially on their Facebook page. Whilst most just thanked people for buying the t-shirts, one comment went one step further and really stood out:
So not only did The Hunna say they would have liked to have smoked weed inside a venue, they also publicly invited a fan to do this with them at a future show. Again, is this really the most responsible thing to be suggesting and promoting to your fans?
As previously said, people realise that some bands dabble in drugs; they are not naïve. But privately taking them and releasing merchandise celebrating drug use is a completely different story. The Hunna are idols to many of their fans, therefore this isn’t the kind of behaviour that is acceptable by role models to thousands of teenagers.
Whilst the use of illegal drugs by musicians is unlikely to die down any time soon, there needs to be a point where bands realise where to draw the line between the private use of them and the promotion of them, because the latter is just not dope.
I asked The Hunna for a comment on this issue as I wanted to hear their reasoning behind the release of the t-shirt, however, my message was read but no response was given.