Top 10 Most Expensive Music Videos In The World: Madonna & Michael Jackson Still Rule

Immediately after their inception, music videos took the music landscape by storm and instantly became an integral part of the industry. Rarely does a song become a hit if it is not accompanied by an audio-visual presentation. People are more stimulated by what they see and music videos are effective in stimulating audiences, getting them to relate with the song as well as facilitating the retention and recognition of both song and artist.

As music videos are effective platforms in promoting the song and the singer, many artists have sought the best production outfits to help them come up with the most compelling and entertaining productions.  And for those who had no qualms about money, allocation, and budget costs, music video production can easily mean a multi-million dollar endeavor. Here are the 10 most expensive music videos ever.

#10 What’s It Gonna Be? by Busta Rhymes

Production Costs: $2.4 million

Produced in 1999 by Hype Williams, the music video for What’s It Gonna Be? by Busta Rhymes required $2.4 million to complete. Judging by the video’s budget, the overall costs would have been $3.9 million by today’s standards. Janet Jackson did not come cheap, but most of the money went to computer-generated transformations. In the video Busta Rhymes and Ms. Jackson morphed several times. The glass costume, worn by Rhymes, was reported to be worth $40,000 alone.

#9 Heartbreaker by Mariah Carey featuring Jay-Z

Production Costs: $2.5 million

Mariah’s Heartbreaker music video was shot in 1999 with Brett Ratner leading the production crew. Total costs amounted to $2.5 million, which stemmed from a lot of elements that were needed for the production. The list included Jerry O’Connell’s talent fee, rent for a cinema and a mansion, as well as the animation. This was made at a time when Mariah was still a huge resounding name in the music industry.

#8 Too Legit To Quit by MC Hammer

Production Costs: $2.5 million

MC Hammer totally dominated the rap music scene back in the early 1990s and it is not surprising for his lable to give a go signal to allocate $2.5 million for the Too Legit To Quit music video. Given that the year was 1991, such amount was huge and would go for $4 million today. Key highlights of the video included the appearances of James Brown and John Belushi as well as some pyrotechnic display.

#7 Victory by Puff Daddy

Production Costs: $2.7 million

Puff Daddy, Notorious B.I.G., and Busta Rhymes joined together in 1993 for the music video of Victory. It was directed by Marcus Nispel, adn the total money spent for the production settled at $2.7 million. The fact that it is eight minutes long is just a sliver of the production costs. Major expenditures included appearances of Dennis Hopper and Danny DeVito, construction and destruction of a helicopter, stunt men fees, and huge fireworks also required a lot of money.

#6 Estranged by Guns N’ Roses

Production Costs: $4 million

Guns N’ Roses was a huge band back in the day and so were the music videos of their songs. Estranged  was no different. As the title subtly implies, the song is about separation and that was the focalpoint of the music video. It delved on divorce and was 10 minutes long. Produced in 1993, the video was highlighted by several “expensive” scenes such as Axl Rose leaping off the deck of an oil tanker and Slash emerging from the bottom of the ocean. Also, the video also showed the band boarding a transport aircraft. And those were just some of the frames shot in the music video.

#5 Black or White by Michael Jackson

Production Costs: $4 million

One of Michael Jackson’s most popular songs in his music career, Black or White was a piece directed straight at modern racism. With such a sensitive subject, MJ and his team wanted to produce an equally compelling video. The result was an instant hit. The video was one of the most watched music videos of all time and helped MJ become a global icon in the fight against racism. But the production cost was anything but cheap. Computer generated transformations, appearances of equally popular people, and turning Michael into a black panther made up a huge slice of the production’s $4 million budget. And that was way back in 1991.

#4 Bedtime Story by Madonna

Production costs: $5 million

Madonna and her label did not have any issues spending $5 million for the making of the Bedtime Story music video back in 1995. Fees for direction were considerably high with renowned music video director Mark Romanek at the helm. Also, the video was basically littered with tons of digital effects. While the shooting took only six days, the post production process went on for weeks. That said, the finished product was touted as one of Madonna’s most experimental music videos and has been kept by art and music galleries around the world.

#3 Express Yourself by Madonna

Production costs: $5 million

Taking inspiration from the 1927 classic film Metropolis, the music video Express Yourself was clearly Madonna’s way of expressing her thoughts and ideas on several social issues stemming from power and gender. Hollywood powerhouse David Fincher (who also directed Fight Club and The Panic Room) led and steered the production crew in the making of this video. His talent fee alone required a huge sum from the total budget allocation.

#2 Die Another Day by Madonna

Production Costs: $6.1 million

With Die Another Day being the theme song of a James Bond movie, that meant a lot of action scenes for the song’s music video. Traktor, a Sweden-based production outfit was commissioned for the job and they did not disappoint. Madonna performed her own stunts, including some fight scenes with herself. To make it more compelling, Madonna underwent fencing training to make her a legit sword fighter for a few moments. That alone would take up a huge slice off the budget. And since Madonna was duelling against herself in the video, it also meant expensive computer effects.

#1 Scream by Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson

Production Costs: $7 million

The space-themed Scream by Michael Jackson featuring his sister Janet is the most expensive music video to date. $7 million was allocated to produce the video, with the renowned Mark Romanek at the helm. Produced in 1995, the set of the video was on board a computer-generated white spaceship, which was a huge chunk of the budget. The special effects and the lighting set up did not come cheap either. If compared against today’s barometers, the video is worth $10.5 million.

Allan Jay

By Allan Jay

Allan Jay is FinancesOnline’s resident B2B expert with over a decade of experience in the SaaS space. He has worked with vendors primarily as a consultant in the UX analysis and design stages, lending to his reviews a strong user-centric angle. A management professional by training, he adds the business perspective to software development. He likes validating a product against workflows and business goals, two metrics, he believes, by which software is ultimately measured.

Andrew says:

Space Oddity (cover by Chris Hadfield).

Transportation cost alone (about $80M) is more than these 10 videos combined, while building the set cost about 18,000 times as much as transportation.

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Fiona says:

You make the point that at production costs of $7m , 'Scream' (1995) at today's prices would have cost $10.5m . Should not this comparison have been applied to the production costs of each video at today's prices in order to truly validate this list? I do not have the conversion expertise but having been around in 1989! when Madonna's ' Express Yourself' was made at a cost of $5m , it was a phenomenal figure. At today's prices I am sure the conversion would top $10.5m and place her in the #1 spot? 'Die Another Day' might slide a little however as it was made in 2002! Food for thought?

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Alex says:

Fair point Fiona. According to various sites including (which measures inflation), $5 million in 1989 equates to approx $10.8 million in 2020. However, $7 million in 1995 equates to approx $12 million in 2020. Therefore, the Scream video still takes the top spot.

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