Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” Lyrics Meaning

“Money for Nothing”is one of the most successful songs performed by the English rock band Dire Straits. As the title suggests, the song’s theme is about musicians who have achieved fame and significant wealth from doing “easy work”.

According to Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, the song’s lyrics were inspired by the comments of a delivery man he met at an appliance store in New York. Knopfler stated that while he was at the back of the store, the deliveryman, whose job was to move appliances, was busy watching MTV on the TVs displayed at the store. And after being disgusted by what he was watching, he came up with a number of the song’s famous lines, including “that ain’t working”. 

According to the deliveryman, he felt the MTV performers received money for doing absolutely nothing. And on top of that they got “chicks for free”! Knopfler, who found the worker’s commentary interesting, instantly borrowed a pen and paper and began writing down some of the comments he was uttering about the musicians. According to Knopfler, he wrote most of the song’s lyrics right in the store because his aim was to use as much of the real comments the man made about the MTV performers.

Money for Nothing


Music Video

The song’s video, which was one of the first music videos in the music industry to make use of computer generated animation, won the MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year in 1986. The song’s video made history in on August 1st, 1987 when it became the first music video to be played on MTV Europe.

Writing Credits for “Money for Nothing”

The song was written by Knopfler and Sting, whose only contribution to the song was the line “I want my MTV”. The main reason why Sting shares songwriting credits with Knopfler on the song is because the melody of the line “I want my MTV” is very similar to the melody of his hit song “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” performed by his band The Police.

And by the way, the voice at the beginning of the song singing the line “I want my MTV” is Sting’s voice.

Majority of the lyrics for “Money for Nothing” were the actual words uttered by the delivery man from the department store.

A Song about Mötley Crüe?

According to Nikki Sixx of the American heavy metal band Mötley Crüe, Knopfler wrote the song about Mötley Crüe.


Owing to the use of the word “f*****” in the lyrics, many have over the years strongly condemned the song for being homophobic. As a result of that, these days when performing the song live, Knopfler replaces the offending word with “queenie”.

Release Date of “Money for Nothing”

The song was released on 24th June, 1985 as the second single from the band’s fifth studio album Brothers in Arms. This album made it into the list of the world’s most successful albums of all time. It actually sold over 30 million copies across the globe.

Grammy Honors

Money for Nothing” was nominated for the Grammy Award for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year but lost both nominations to We Are the World by USA for Africa at the 28th Annual Grammy Awards in 1986. The song, however, won the Grammy for the Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

Chart Success

Money for Nothing peaked at No. 1 in the United States (the Hot 100). It also peaked at position number 4 in Britain (the UK Singles Chart).

Who sings the backing vocals on “Money for Nothing”

In addition to singing the song’s intro, Sting also sings background vocals on the song.

30 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    I think different a man named bart f. Smith created this song and never got the credits for it

  2. KenL says:

    Mike, Mark Knopfler wrote the song in the store where I worked. In fact, he quoted me and one of the guys that worked for me. He wrote the song in less than 30 minutes while he sat at a dining table that was on display and on a borrowed legal pad.

  3. Derek says:

    KenL, that’s really cool! I wish I was there, I’m 13 years old, and I sadly didn’t get to experience the 80’s, but I really wish I could be there. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Chrissie says:

    I’ve always been curious to know the meaning of this song after all these years listening to it. Thanks for the explanation.

  5. Nathan says:

    This song meanings page left out kind of an important point: Whether the song is hating on lgbt or is satire of people who do. (You might think it’s obvious, but these days…? Try figuring out whether the earth is hollow, flat, or the standard spherical model, just by listening to viewpoints on the internet.)

  6. Anonymous says:

    Mark knopfler..one-trick pony..need i say more…

  7. Federico says:

    The delivery man was right, as he actually wrote the words of one of the most famous rock piece of all times, while Knopfler got money for nothing…;-P

    • KenL says:

      Mark Knopfler caught up with me after writing the song and offered to have their attorney talk to me about royalties. He also asked me if I owned the copyright to the word he had heard because, though My coworker was the one making derogatory remarks about a performer on one of the televisions, much of what he wrote down was direct quotes from me. I told him that I didn’t have copyright and he tried again to convince me I could make a lot of money. I told him to go make a lot of money with it and walked away thinking he was a songwriter wannabe like so many others I had encountered. Well, he went and made a lot of money with it.

      • Hammer says:

        How many times have you kicked yourself in the a-s for not accepting that offer?

        • KenL says:

          Every time I hear that intro! You still hear that song in advertising and on the radio. $$$$ Since then I have warned others NEVER GIVE ANYTHING AWAY! Told a guy taking photos one time when someone asked him practically the same question. He responded he didn’t have copyright on a photo. I told him what happened and he said that from that point on he owned copyright on all his photos. LOL, Live and learn.

          • Anonymous says:

            He actually has copyright protection over every photo as soon as it’s taken, unless he is doing it as part of the scope of his employment for some other entity.

          • KenL says:

            Anonymous, he does have copyright to his photos unless he states otherwise. Once he said “No” to the question of copyright he put it in the public domain. Just one of the nuances of copyright law.

  8. Betty saxton says:

    I love mark knopfler, then and now

  9. lol jk says:

    Way to prove his point. The delivery guy did all the work and wrote the song for you! He should have sent him some free chicks at least!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Why is fa*-ot a homophobic word? I hear gay people saying it all the time. And how does saying ‘gay’ not make someone homophobic? Surely there’s more to it than just the word.

  11. crunchbucket says:

    i,m sure the delivery guy found out he was famous when he heard his thoughts on the radio

  12. Spiegel Beagle says:

    I was there that day, it was at Crazy Eddie’s 57st between 2nd and 3rd Ave. A bunch of guys thought I was the inspiration, I worked up on the TV deck, which looked just like the bank of TV’s in the video. I was always complaining about the guy’s on MTV. But it wasn’t me, it was another guy, Richie in car stereo that was the source. It was also the one and only day we had fridges in the store. I don’t think Kelso, Eddie Antar, liked us selling fridges and they got taken out fast. I loved that song, I lived every word of it.

    Now when I tell the story no one even knows what Crazy Eddie’s was, but those that know know. That’s the real background story from a guy that was there. We met amazing people at that store, the stories are legendary.

    • Spiegel Beagle says:

      PS. I was thinking about it last night after writing here and have a few more thoughts. We all knew Mark was in the store that day, all the celebrities shopped for electronics in our store and also in our Greenwich Village store. Personally I didn’t know who he was, most of the guys did, there was a buzz. The microwave kiosk was 1.5 meters from the car stereo room. The fridges that day we’re parked next to them. The TV deck was behind that area, raised on a platform. Tom Hanks made a mermaid movie with a scene shot there. It looks just like in the video.

      I heard the story that Richie was the inspiration from Arnie Spindler who met Mark at a party and asked about it. I still think that Mark heard me saying, I should’ve learnt how to play the guitar, I said that alot. I don’t think that one person was the inspiration, the delivery guy, it was probably put together from several conversations he heard walking around. Also it would have been a stock guy, not a delivery guy, but we all looked the same, dressed the same.

      All this took place at the height of the electronic VCR craze. Even SNL did a few skits about our ads. You can Google this stuff. We all talked like the video, we all thought that stuff.

      • Spiegel Beagle says:

        PS 2. Why would I remember so much about that day, a good question I ask myself. It was about the fridges. They were all wrong, they shouldn’t have been there. We’re Crazy Eddie’s, we don’t sell fridges, we’re electronic selling Rock srars, we don’t sell that shit. It was kinda like that scene in The Pirates of Silicone Valley when an engineer shows up for an interview with Steve Jobs and Jobs rips him apart as old school. In a stupid way, sounds stupid anyway now, we were gonna change the world thru delivering consumer electronics, the first PC was still about a year away, and we sold those. No way we sell fridges and washing machines.

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