In the 2010 comedy film Get Him To The Greek, an early rant from Sean “Diddy” Combs perfectly sums up one of the biggest problems in the music industry. In light of the recent deaths of rappers like Lil Peep and Mac Miller, the scene, which makes light of drug addiction and substance abuse in the music business, becomes a dark and cautionary indictment of not just the labels and business partners who enable drug dependent artists, but also of the fans who clamor for artists’ darkest moments.
Diddy, in character as music mogul Sergio Roma — basically, a surreally heightened, (even more) outrageous version of Diddy himself — tasks Aaron Green (portrayed by Jonah Hill) with safely escorting British rock star Aldous Snow (played with charmingly unhinged abandon by Russell Brand) from his home in London to the Greek Theater in Los Angeles for a comeback show aimed at redeeming the rockstar of his disastrous last album. Sergio explains that Aaron will have to keep Aldous, who has recently fallen off the wagon after seven years of sobriety, perfectly balanced between his sober and inebriated states, as this is the only way he will be considered entertaining for the waiting fans.
“He’s a drug addict, Aaron,” Sergio explains. “You have to show him balance. People wanna see him fucked up, but they don’t wanna see him too fucked up. If this is fucked up and this is sober… Right here. That’s the perfect balance, right there.”
It’s played for laughs in the film, but the heart of what Diddy-as-Sergio is saying cuts through to one of the recording industry’s darkest, worst-kept secrets. In a business where manipulation and exploitation are considered best practices, unfortunately, we are all complicit in this system that chews up and spits out real people. Lonely and damaged artists like Amy Winehouse, Lil Peep, Fredo Santana, and Mac Miller need help kicking their habits, but are instead left to muddle through on their own when someone — label owners, fans, family, friends, musical peers, hell, everyone must step in.