Economics in Music Lyrics Writing Assignment

For this writing assignment, you are to pick song lyrics for one song that relates to any of the economic ideas/concepts that we have covered in class. The entire song does not have to be related to economic concepts, but you need to be able to make several connections using the lyrics.

When it comes to picking a song to analyze:

Your song CANNOT be about economics, like in this example Links to an external site.(all these types of songs do is regurgitate economic definitions of concepts). The point of this assignment is to pick a “regular” song and make connections of economic concepts to it, not to simply find a song that is repeating definitions of concepts we have learned about. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be a “radio” song either. I have had students choose songs from popular theater plays and Disney movies.
You do NOT have to pick a “clean” song. I am an adult and can handle adult language/themes.
You need to find a song that you can pluck at least three concepts from.
Banned Songs

The following songs cannot be used for this assignment, or you will receive a zero:

“I’m Gonna Miss Her” by Brad Paisley, because I have provided examples of the assignment using this song (see below)
“7 Rings” by Ariana Grande
“Let the Dollar Circulate” by Billy Paul
“Money” by Pink Floyd
“Price Tag” by Jessie J
“Taxman” by The Beatles

analysis Instructions

Your paper must include a two-page minimum, five-page maximum analysis of why you believe the lyrics are related to economic concepts covered in class. Be specific about which lyrics are tied to which concepts and why you believe they are linked!

Don’t Do These Things

I have used this assignment in my course for several semesters and have had students write some very interesting and clever papers, and some have written… less interesting and less clever papers. Here is a list of things to avoid when writing your paper, because they will cost you points:

Talk about the supply and demand of money. While supply and demand is considered a microeconomics topic, specifically talking about the supply and demand of money is actually a macroeconomics topic, and therefore something we do not analyze in this course… so don’t talk about it in your paper!
Droning on about a single concept repeatedly for the entire paper. As stated above in the Song Choice section, you need to pick a song that you can find at least three different concepts to talk about. It’s okay if they are similar, such as 1) opportunity costs, 2) marginal benefit vs marginal cost, 3) utility maximization. These three concepts could all be applied to the same lyric as long as you can identify/explain the connection. But do not pick a song full of choices made by the signer and go on and on and on about each individual choice and its associated opportunity cost. Variety is the spice of life, they say!
Using massive amounts of filler. Students in the past have used all kinds of methods of filler to reach the two-page minimum, including massive amounts of blank spaces, giant headers, copy/pasting large graphs into the paper, etc. Just… just don’t do it, okay? “Filler” includes, but is not limited to:
Detailing information about the song origin, author, meaning, sales, etc. This paper is not for you to tell me why the song was so impactful when it was first released, what the song meant personally to the artists or yourself, how many records the album sold… none of this has to do with what we are talking about in the course!
Speaking about your feelings on the assignment. Do not write about your thoughts on this assignment, such as how hard it was (or how easy) or how much you liked it (or hated it), such as the cases of these unedited quotes from previous papers:
“When I first found this song, it was shocking how catchy it was. … I love this song now and I am putting it on one of my playlists.”
“Economics in music is actually more common than you would think, at first when I read this assignment, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to think of a song but after only about a minute I could think of at least five different songs I could’ve chosen.”
“I think this song after researching it was able to provide insight on microeconomics more than I thought a song would be able to do.”
Defining economic concepts. You’re writing this paper for an audience who understands economics. Therefore, you do not need to define every economic concept you’re making a connection to. If you need to state part of the definition to make a point, that is fine. But saying things like, “Economics is all about choices, because scarcity exists. And with every choice comes opportunity costs. In the song [x], the singer lists many different opportunity costs from making several decisions, which I will discuss in detail.” The first two sentences in that quote are completely unnecessary and are just filler!
Can you tell I don’t like filler? Last bullet point on filler, I promise… but seriously, you’re not fooling anyone… bite the bullet and write a real college-level paper!
Not writing a full two-page analysis. This is a college course, and I’m even offering double spacing (so really, it’s like a one-page minimum on single spacing). I realize that the instructions say “two-page minimum,” but just go ahead and plan for 2.5 pages. Writing an analysis that is one full page and then two or three lines away from the bottom of the second page is NOT a two-page analysis. Don’t take a chance on missing easy points.
Writing about economic topics we have not discussed in class. Many times, students tend to go down a rabbit hole of macroeconomic concepts, which is clearly not in the scope of this course, or into a deeper dive of more advance/complicated microeconomic topics that we did not cover in the course. I do not expect you, nor do I want you, to write about anything other than the covered material from the video lectures I have provided you.
Writing as if you’re having an informal conversation. As you’ve seen in my lectures, I’m a fairly informal speaker when teaching a concept. But this is a formal writing assignment, so steer clear of conversational tones and informal statements.
Fail to make direct connections to the lyrics. It’s hard to talk about the economics of a song without actually discussing the lyrics in the song. Make sure you have several instances of examples where you are explicitly stating something along the lines of, “When the singer says [x], I feel this can be related to the economic concept of [y] because of [z].”