"Breaking up the sky": The characterisation of accounting and accountants in popular music

David Smith, Kerry Jacobs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose - This paper aims to present an examination of the characterisation of accounting and accountants in popular music. Some authors have considered the place of accounting in popular culture and the social perceptions of accounting and accountants. This research aims to advance this work by suggesting that music both offers a powerful insight into social perceptions of accounting, and serves both to reflect and reinforce these perceptions. Design/methodology/approach - Songs featuring accountants were identified, which was verified by a search of song lyric databases using the search terms accountant/s , accounting and accounts and accounting terms. The lyrics were analysed on the basis of how the accountants or accounting activity were presented, and a taxonomy was established. Findings - Some songs reflect the image of the accountant as both the facilitator and accoutrement of positions of wealth and privilege. The dark side of the image is the assertion that the accountant will abuse their position of trust. The final, and perhaps most sinister image, is that of accountants as the perpetrators of fraud and deception. It is concluded that these images of accountants and accounting illustrate that the accounting profession is facing a significant challenge in terms of its image and relationship to the public. Originality/value - This study is the first to consider the characterisation of accountants/accounting in popular music. Recent representations have tended to characterise accounting and accountants in a particularly negative light. Accountants are presented as agents in the destruction of the environment, exploiters of the poor, accessories and agents of the wealthy and constructors of a truth that benefits the rich. Overall, the representation of accounting in music tends to fit the position adopted by many of the most critical accounting authors. A particular aspect of the oppressive role exercised by accountants and accounting in society is as the embodiment of, and advocate for, or even a metaphor for, a particular form of economic reason that progressively suppresses and destroys relationships, the environment and artistic creativity in the interest of financial gain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)904 - 931
Number of pages28
JournalAccounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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