10 songs about business and money - and the lessons they've taught us

Looking for business wisdom from your playlists? MT has done the work for you, and concludes that most artists are pretty cynical about business.

by Ollie Smith
Last Updated: 24 Oct 2014

1. ‘Ten Crack Commandments’ by the Notorious B.I.G

From the Mount Sinai of rap are brought two tablets inscribed with this tour de force of supply, demand and business professionalism.

. ‘Never let no one know / how much dough you hold, cause you know / The chedder breed jealousy’.
. ‘Never get high on your own supply’.
. The ‘underrated’ rule: keep your family and business completely separated.

2. ‘Boom, like That’ by Mark Knopfler

A musical biography of Ray Kroc, this is possibly the only serious track to have ever been written about burgers. Kroc was the man who turned McDonald’s into the towering double arches that we recognise globally, and was famous for his aggressive sales pitches.

Lesson: ‘Sometimes you’ve got to be an S.O.B. if you wanna make a dream reality.’

3. ‘Richard Cory’ by Simon & Garfunkel

Based on the poem of the same name by Edwin Robinson, Simon & Garfunkel’s ballad is a sarcastic attack on the fictional Richard Cory from the perspective of one of the workers in his factory. Cory is a wealthy and educated businessman admired by everyone in town, but eventually commits suicide.

Lesson: Wealth is not necessarily conducive to happiness.

4. ‘Money’ by Pink Floyd

‘Money’ comes replete with references to human greed (‘I’m all right Jack keep your hands off my stack’). Ironically, bassist Roger Waters’ desperation to finish the band’s album ‘The Wall’ was driven by promises of a multi-million pound advance from Warner Brothers and was one of the reasons the band imploded.

Lesson: Don’t be a hypocrite.

5. ‘Donald Trump’ by Mac Miller

‘Take over the world when I’m on my Donald Trump shit / Look at all this money, ain’t that some shit?’ is perhaps one of the nicer things to have been written about Donald Trump recently. To be fair, though, Trump ‘started out here locally’.

Lesson: Entrepreneurialism and determination are the keys to global success. 

6. ‘Orange Crush’ by R.E.M.

Its title a reference to the defoliant ‘Agent Orange’ used by the United States during the Vietnam War, this song describes the relationship between business and war. The Dow Chemical Company was responsible for Agent Orange’s production (along with napalm) and more than a few naïve graduates took up jobs with them with no knowledge of the company’s contracts with the Department of Defense.

Lesson: Always research your employer’s clients.

7. ‘Why-Aye, Man’ by Mark Knopfler

Knopfler’s Geordie roots shine through this ballad about a Newcastle family’s escape from Thatcherite unemployment. Its mechanical bass line helps to tell the story of British building work in Germany, and underpins the surprise revelation that German beer is ‘chemical free’.

Lesson: Sometimes you have to follow the money to stay afloat.

8. ‘Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)’ by The Pet Shop Boys

The second song in our list to deal with Thatcherism, this 1985 hit is the story of a Sorbonne-educated protagonist who petitions his friend to go into business. They fail, which was singer Neil Tennant’s way of saying that you don’t necessarily need a degree to be successful in business (or synth pop).

Lesson: Qualifications aren’t the only path to success.

9. ‘Bright Future in Sales’ by Fountains of Wayne

Either a motivational call to look to the future if you’re down in the dumps, or a warning on the risks of alcoholism during work shifts (or both), ‘Bright Future in Sales’ has a tongue-in-cheek tone reminiscent of Trainspotting that questions whether poverty is better than prosperity (no brainer).

Lesson: Be aware of your lot.

10. ‘If I had a Million Dollars’ by the Bare Naked Ladies

One of the earliest compositions by this Canadian alternative/fun rock band, ‘If I had a Millions Dollars’ is a thoughtful and imaginative examination of some things that a million dollars could buy. Notably, ‘I'd buy you a monkey / Haven't you always wanted a monkey?’ MT hopes that their success now means that this is possible.

Lesson: Money can be really, really fun.

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