The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) has claimed most references to alcohol brands in music happen without permission after a study accused drinks firms of targeting younger consumers through popular songs.

The study, released this month, showed that Jack Daniel's whisky, Hennessy Cognac, Grey Goose vodka and Patron Tequila account for more than half of alcohol brand-specific mentions in songs that reference alcohol, according to USA Today. One of the study's authors said the infiltration of brand mentions into music “is a major element of alcohol marketing”.

However, in a statement late last week, the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) said most instances of brand-name references in song lyrics are outside of a brand owners' control.

The council said: “While the industry encourages those artists to use good judgement and taste, as the study's authors should know, that music is protected by the First Amendment.”

DISCUS also disagreed with the study's conclusion that brand references are associated with increased underage drinking.

“(This) ignores Government statistics, which show that alcohol consumption and binge drinking rates among 8th, 10th and 12th graders have continued a significant long-term decline.”

The study, by researchers at Boston University School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, looked at songs in the US Billboard Top 100 from 2009 to 2011.

In July, DISCUS welcomed new chairman Gerry Ruvo, who succeeded the outgoing John McDonnell.