Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Lecture Library

Music for Econ
by Brian ORoark

The files below deal with economic content in music. You will find a variety of genres and topics covered in the songs. If you have an idea for a song or have a presentation that you have put together please drop me a line and we'll get your project posted.

Music for Econ on Critical Commons is the newest manifestation of the project begun by Dirk Mateer and Andrew Rice of Penn State University.

Molasses to Rum - from the musical 1776 by Sherman Edwards (1969) The musical 1776 tells of the battle in the Continental Congress over signing the Declaration of Independence. The song Molasses to Rum addresses what the south viewed as the hypocrisy of the north regarding the slave trade. It is fairly safe to say that this is the only song ever written about the triangle trade.
The Way It Is - Hornsby / Shakur by Bruce Hornsby / Tupak Shakur (1986 / 1996) A mash up of two songs of the same name, The Way It Is addresses many social issues. Of economic concern are unemployment and discrimination.
Thrift Shop - Macklemore by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (2012) This "rapsodic" hit about shopping at the thrift shop pokes fun at rappers who flaunt their spending. Maklemore himself claimed that this song was an attempt to promote saving. In this contribution to music for econ, Dirk Mateer and James Lang provide a veritable quiz of economic terms that show up in the thrift shop.
Cash Machine - Hard Fi by Hard Fi (2005) Opportunity costs abound in this song by Hard Fi. Cash machines aren't costless, and neither are the choices we make.
Christmas List - Simple Plan by Simple Plan (2001) Not your typical Christmas list song, Simple Plan isn’t asking for world peace. They want to indulge in lots of “ things they don’t need”. Of course as economists, we realize that “a million gifts” is unlikely due to the reality of scarcity.
Privilege to Pee - from the musical Urinetown by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann (2002) The musical Urinetown presents a greedy businessman who deals with a water shortage by instituting a toilet tax. If you don’t pay, you are banished, hence the “Privilege to Pee”. In this song we see the basics of demand and supply played out and how a monopolist can interfere with the market. Couple this with the indignity of paying for the privilege and you have the Tony winner for best musical score in 2002.
East Bound and Down - Jerry Reed by Jerry Reed (2009) East Bound and Down deals with trade and barriers to trade faced by truckers trying to move beer to thirsty consumers.
Whatever you Like - Weird Al Yankovic by Weird Al Yankovic (2008) Weird Al is at it again, putting out great economic content. In this parody he describes how you can have whatever you like.... at least within his budget constraint.
Price Tag - Jessie J by Jessie J featuring B.o.B. - Produced by Dr. Luke (2011) Spending money is fun. When you can forget about how much things cost buying things takes on a life of its own. However at some point, no matter how much you try to forget, the bills come due. This is one of the realizations of the great recession of 2008-2009. This is another contribution from Dirk Mateer and James Lang.
Satisfaction - Rolling Stones by Rolling Stones (1966) The epic Rolling Stones provide the perfect song about utility, perhaps this is due to Sir Mick’s background in economics.
River Runs Red - Midnight Oil by Midnight Oil (1987) In this song about the degradation of the land caused by pollution, Midnight Oil deals with the implications of negative externalities. Like most songs striking a "green" theme, the economic perspective turns to the costs imposed on third parties.
No Man's Land - Billy Joel by Billy Joel (1993) When economies grow it isn’t always sunshine and lollypops. Growing pains for economies are just another form of opportunity cost.
Fidelity Fiduciary Bank - Mary Poppins by Walt Disney Corporation (1964) The bankers singing the song Fidelity Fiduciary Bank in the movie version of Mary Poppins provide a perfect example of how lending and saving go hand in hand to facilitate investment.
Money Talks - AC/DC by AC/DC (1990) Money Talks by AC/DC deals with the role money plays in economic transactions. Money talks - it provides the incentives to get people to do things.
E-Bay - Weird Al Yankovic by Weird Al Yankovic (2003) E-bay is a Weird Al classic parody song. However, he deals with the efficiency of markets making Weird Al quite the economist.
The Horizon Has Been Defeated - Jack Johnson by Jack Johnson (2003) The Horizon Has Been Defeated is a song that deals with a number of different economic concepts, although not necessarily in a cohesive way. Defeating the horizon involves issues such as time preference, development and the omnipresent opportunity costs.
Fortunate Son - Creedence Clearwater Revival by Creedence Clearwater Revival (1970) In this anti-Vietnam war ballad CCR claims that the less fortunate among us are forced to bear burdens that the children of the well-connected and well-off do not. Do these groups bear different responsibilities or are there actually higher costs for some to join the army than others?
Material Girl by Madonna (1984) Madonna's signature song put her on the map in 1984. Materialism is sometimes decried as a significant problem with capitalism, but if people don't buy things the economy would grind to a halt. Does having more stuff make you happier? That's debatable, the economic question of utility attempts to address that question.
Soak up the Sun - Sheryl Crow by Sheryl Crow (2002) Soak Up the Sun deals with the opportunity cost of sunning oneself while the world goes by. Trying to catch rays while they are still “free” makes an economist wonder, does Ms. Crow understand there is no such thing as a free sunbeam?
Christmas List - Simple Plan by Simple Plan (2001) Not your typical Christmas list song, Simple Plan isn’t asking for world peace. They want to indulge in lots of “ things they don’t need”. Of course as economists, we realize that “a million gifts” is unlikely due to the reality of scarcity.