Since the launch of MTV in the early 80’s music videos have provided a ‘total music experience’ for listeners, not as good as a live performance perhaps, but certainly a ‘deeper’ experience than just listening to a song. When Beyoncé launched her self titled visual album that included 14 new songs and 17 music videos, she described it as a “non-linear journey through the thoughts and visions of Beyoncé.”
Music videos are also an incredible form of marketing for artists – a great way to sell their products. Over the years we’ve seen all sorts innovations in the music video – death defying stunts, really crazy fashion – artists have tried anything and everything in the attempt to express themselves – and sell records. More and more though, the music video is becoming like a mini movie – with higher and higher price tags.
So how much do stars spend on making a perfect music video? Well, Michael Jackson and Madonna who top our list spend millions and millions…here is the top 10 list, cheapest first…
(All these costs have been adjusted for inflation)
10. Busta Rhymes – What’s It Gonna Be? (Play this video in Creation 5)
Produced in 1999
Cost $4 million
Full of special effects – in fact this video holds the Guinness World Record for the most expensive special effects in a music video. For example we see Janet Jackson dancing in shiny liquid rain – but they aren’t just raindrops they are small 3D versions of Busta Rhymes. Directed by Hype Williams the video caused quite a sensation when it was released in 1999.
9. MC Hammer – Too Legit to Quit (Play this video in Creation 5)
Produced in 1991
Cost $4.2 million
A 14 minute long video – this really was a mini movie with a huge array of stars playing cameo roles. It was James Brown’s role however that cost a fortune. Brown was in prison at the time so Hammer arranged for a private jet to pick him up from his South Carolina prison. Then, naturally, Brown wanted to spend some time in Las Vegas after the shoot, so add in another 2 days of private jet rental and the cost of production really spiked. Director Rupert Wainwright said: “It was an 18-day shoot, but we didn’t shoot it in 18 days. We shot [it] in 30 days. We would shoot an 18-hour day and take two days off. It was insane. It was the hardest shoot I ever did in my life.”
8. Michael Jackson – Bad (Play this video in Creation 5)
Produced in 1987
Cost $4.5 million
MJ recruited a true all star team for the production of this music video – or rather short film, the full length version is 18 minutes long (and no longer available on YouTube – except in two parts). Directed by the one and only Martin Scorsese, it took the crew a total of six weeks to shoot! Short version below.
7. Guns N’ Roses – Estranged (Play this video in Creation 5)
Produced in 1993
Cost $6.5 million
Directed by Andy Morahan the emotional power ballad that is Estranged, needed an equally dramatic video. The budget included the use of the US Coast Guard helicopter and rescue team, an oil tanker and a Antonov An-124 Ruslan aircraft. The almost 10 minute long video is part of a trilogy, also featuring ‘Don’t Cry’ and ’November Rain’. The video starts with the dictionary definition of ‘Illusion’….
6. Britney Spears – Work Bitch (Play this video in Creation 5)
Produced in 2013
Cost $6.5 million
Sharks, mannequins that get blown up, a white Lamborghini, epic location changes, an extensive wardrobe, plenty of special effects and the most incredible choreography all added to Britney’s price tag for the production of Work Bitch. Has anyone seen her Las Vegas Residency? It’s equally expensive…
5. Michael Jackson – Black or White (Play this video in Creation 5)
Produced in 1991
Cost $6.9 million
A truly memorable Jackson video and stuffed full of special effects – perhaps the revolutionary effect of ‘morphing’ put the budget sky high – or it could have been Macaulay Culkin, or Tyra Banks? Directed by John Landis, when the video aired for the first time in 1991, 500 million people watched it – a record at that point for Fox.
4. Madonna – Bedtime Story (Play this video in Creation 5)
Produced in 1995
Cost $7.7 million
“Let’s Get Unconscious” is the song’s main line and Director Mark Romanek used revolving sunflowers, Egyptian imagery and references to surrealist paintings to illustrate this line. It worked – as the video has a really trance like feel – creepy in fact. It took 6 days to shoot, but the post production was where the costs escalated. This mini movie was premiered at movie theatres in LA, New York and Chicago.
3. Madonna – Die Another Day (Play this video in Creation 5)
Produced in 2002
Cost $7.9 million
Directed by Swedish team – Traktor, the intense special effects portray very realistic fighting between a good and evil Madonna – wounds and blood included. According to Traktor: “For various reasons, there are effects in almost every shot. It is a testament to the skills of the merry artisans of MPC that you think there are none.”
2. Madonna – Express Yourself (Play this video in Creation 5)
Produced in 1989
Cost $9.4 million
Winning awards for Best Direction and Best Cinematography at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards, this stunning video was modelled after the film ‘Metropolis’. Don’t settle for second best….
1. Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson – Scream (Play this video in Creation 5)
Produced in 1995
Cost $10.7 million
Top of our list of the most expensive music video of all time is the brother and sister hit ‘Scream’. With a computer-generated spaceship and 13 pieces to the set, the lighting alone cost $200,000. The dancing is incredible and the video won an award for Best Dance Video at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards.
10. Busta Rhymes — “What’s It Gonna Be?!” (1999): $4 million.
9. MC Hammer — “Too Legit to Quit” (1991): $4.2 million.
8. Michael Jackson — “Bad” (1987): $4.5 million.
7. Gun N’ Roses — “Estranged” (1993): $6.5 million.
6. Britney Spears — “Work Bitch” (2013): $6.5 million.
5. Michael Jackson — “Black or White” (1991): $6.9 million.
4. Madonna — “Bedtime Story” (1995): $7.7 million.
3. Madonna — “Die Another Day” (2002): $7.9 million.
2. Madonna — “Express Yourself” (1989): $9.4 million.
1. Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson — “Scream” (1995): $10.7 million.
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