The 10 Most Expensive Music Videos Ever Made

By on December 13, 2023 in ArticlesEntertainment

The average person probably remembers Michael Nesmith as a member of the 1960s pop/comedy band The Monkees. But Michael actually had an extremely interesting career outside of that band. In fact, one could make the case that Michael invented the modern music video and MTV.

Michael Nesmith was wealthy way before The Monkees because his mother invented Liquid Paper, AKA white out. The Monkees sold 75 million albums during their peak years, from 1966 to 1971.

After leaving The Monkees, he embarked on a solo career and, in the late 1970s, pioneered a new form of music video with his song "Rio". These videos were designed to tell a story alongside the song, marking a significant shift from the typical live performance videos of the time. Nesmith's approach to music videos was a transformative concept, where the narrative was driven by the song rather than just the images. This was seen as a profound shift in the grammar of film, making the experience for music fans more "hyper-real"​.

In addition to his innovative work on music videos, Nesmith also developed "PopClips" for Nickelodeon. This show, dedicated exclusively to music videos, featured comedians like Howie Mandel as early versions of video jockeys. "PopClips" gained popularity among its young audience, prompting the network executives to consider expanding on the concept. Nesmith's role in this project was instrumental, and although he eventually sold his stake and exited, the groundwork he laid was pivotal. John Lack, the COO of Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment Company, was inspired by "PopClips" and used the concept as a foundation to develop MTV, which launched in 1981.

But what are the most expensive music videos of all time???

Most Expensive Music Video

Christopher Polk/Getty Images

In the world of music, extravagance isn't just limited to lavish lifestyles and opulent concerts; it extends into the realm of music videos, where artists and directors collaborate to create visual masterpieces. These projects often command budgets that rival those of blockbuster movies. This article delves into the 10 most expensive music videos of all time, showcasing the incredible lengths artists go to in order to bring their musical visions to life. From Michael Jackson's groundbreaking effects to Madonna's cinematic grandeur, these videos are not just promotions for songs; they are significant cultural artifacts that reflect the era's technological and creative zeniths.

At the bottom of this extravagant list, yet by no means modest in its budget, is "Victory" by Puff Daddy, featuring The Notorious B.I.G. & Busta Rhymes, a 1998 production that cost $2.7 million. The list ascends through a series of visually stunning and technologically advanced productions, such as "Rollin' (Air Raid Vehicle)" by Limp Bizkit and "Cartoon Heroes" by Aqua, each showcasing the evolving art form of music videos over the years. The peak of this list is the iconic "Scream" by Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, a music video that not only broke records with its $7 million budget but also set new standards for what music videos could aspire to be. These productions, adjusted for inflation, demonstrate the enduring impact and importance of music videos in the entertainment industry.

The 10 Most Expensive Music Videos of all Time:

10. "Victory" by Puff Daddy (featuring The Notorious B.I.G. & Busta Rhymes) (1998)

$2,700,000 (Inflation-adjusted: $4,847,652)

9. "Rollin' (Air Raid Vehicle)" by Limp Bizkit (2000)

$3,000,000 (Inflation-adjusted: $4,614,581)

8. "Cartoon Heroes" by Aqua (2000)

$3,500,000 (Inflation-adjusted: $5,947,633)

7. Make Me Like You" by Gwen Stefani (2016)

$4,000,000 (Inflation-adjusted: $4,877,427)

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

6. "Black or White" by Michael Jackson (1991)

$4,000,000 (Inflation-adjusted: $8,594,185)

5. "Estranged" by Guns N' Roses (1993)

$5,000,000 (Inflation-adjusted: $10,129,003)

4. "Bedtime Story" by Madonna (1995)

$5,000,000 (Inflation-adjusted: $9,602,533)

3. "Express Yourself" by Madonna (1989)

$5,000,000 (Inflation-adjusted: $11,804,027)

2. "Die Another Day" by Madonna (2002)

$6,100,000 (Inflation-adjusted: $9,924,773)

1. Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, "Scream"

$7,000,000 (Inflation-adjusted: $13,443,547)

"Scream," a collaboration between Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, stands as a monumental achievement in the history of music videos, not just for its star power but also for its groundbreaking production, making it the most expensive music video ever made. Released on May 31, 1995, "Scream" was directed by the visionary Mark Romanek, who brought to life a futuristic, anti-gravity world that was both visually arresting and thematically profound.

The video's astronomical budget of $7 million, which adjusts to about $13.4 million today, can be attributed to its extensive use of pioneering special effects, elaborate set designs, and cutting-edge technology. Romanek and the Jacksons created a dystopian sci-fi aesthetic, replete with high-tech environments, sleek spacecraft interiors, and innovative CGI. Every frame of the video showcased meticulous attention to detail and a commitment to pushing the boundaries of the medium.

The motivation behind such a lavish production was multifaceted. "Scream" was not just a musical release; it was a response to the intense media scrutiny and personal challenges both Michael and Janet Jackson faced at the time. The song's lyrics, combined with the video's visual metaphor of a claustrophobic, media-saturated future, offered a defiant and creative rebuke to their critics. This artistic ambition, coupled with the Jacksons' reputation for excellence, justified the unprecedented budget.

"Scream" achieved critical acclaim and has since been hailed as a masterpiece of the music video genre. Its legacy extends beyond its cost, as it redefined what a music video could be both as an art form and a medium for personal expression. The video's impact resonates to this day, setting a high bar for creativity and production values in the music industry.

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