Music News

Music News

Back in the day when music videos dominated MTV and VH1’s programming, artists and their record companies would shell out tons of money for attention-grabbing clips. Some of the most iconic (and expensive) music videos of all time were made by ’80s legends Michael Jackson and Madonna. Between the two of them alone, they produced nine music videos that cost over $1 million each.

What Does It Take To Create A Music Video?

There are a lot of elements to consider when creating a music video. Music video production budgets typically cover concept development, storyboards, pre-production, casting, on-camera talent, choreography, rehearsals, location fees, props, costumes, production equipment, production crew, post-production, editing, motion graphics, visual effects, color correction, video encoding, and digital delivery.

The rise of YouTube and the ability to watch videos on demand was just one factor that led to MTV and VH1 abandoning music videos in favor of longer-form programming. (For a great history of MTV, check out the book I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution┬áby Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum). Today, music artists make money off their music videos with product placement (like when you see them jamming using Beats by Dre, or wearing designer clothes or sneakers or drinking name brand drinks), sponsorships, digital downloads, and royalties. Though music videos aren’t shown on television anymore, artists are still making them and promoting them on their social platforms. After all, music videos are often a visual representation of the meaning behind a song. They give the artists another way to express their creativity in a way that enhances their music. With the rise of TikTok and the many viral dances that app has, fans sometimes get choreography inspiration directly from music videos they watch.

Keep scrolling below to see which music videos cost over $1 million to make.

  • 10. Toxic -- Britney Spears

    Britney Spears’ iconic music video was directed by Joseph Kahn and cost $1,000,000 to make. As Spears is completely naked, except for strategically placed diamonds, Kahn said people often think she is wearing a nude hose over her body. However, the pop star was completely naked, he told MTV News at the time. The music video was shot on a Los Angeles soundstage over three days and features dozens of complicated special effects and cameos, including supermodel Tyson Beckford.

  • 9. Waterfalls -- TLC

    F. Gary Gray directed this $1 music video in 1995. The music video directly reflects the song’s socially conscious lyrics about the illegal drug trade, promiscuity, and HIV/AIDS. With the video’s budget, it became an MTV staple at the time, boosting the song’s success. The video won four MTV Video Music Awards that year, including the coveted Video of the Year, and TLC became the first African-American act to receive the award. The video features Ella Joyce, Bokeem Woodbine, Shyheim, Paul J. Alessi, and Gabrielle Bramford. TLC had to force their record executive, L.A. Reid, to get the budget for the music video, which was filmed at Universal Studios Hollywood for two days. TLC’s Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins stated in retrospect that the “video spoke for a whole epidemic.”

  • 8. Ready Or Not -- Fugees

    German film director Marcus Nispel directed this $1.3 million-dollar music video from 1990. The song contains a sample of Enya’s 1987 song, “Boadicea,” and its chorus is based on The Delfonics 1968 song “Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide from Love).” Vibe reported that the video helped usher in the era of bank-breaking, movie-like hip-hop videos. In justifying the cost, group member Pras Michel said, “People want to see drama, man. You figure: A kid pays sixteen dollars for your CD. Let him see a good video.” The group consisted of Wyclef Jean, Pras Michel, and Lauryn Hill, and in 1997, they disbanded.

  • 7. Honey -- Mariah Carey

    Paul Hunter directed Carey’s $2 million-dollar James Bond-themed music video in Puerto Rico. Carey stars as “the very sexy agent M,” and the video marks the singer’s first time presenting herself in a sexier way than she had previously done. In one scene, Carey is seen on an island with model David Fumero, along with her real-life dog, Jack. Other cameos in the video feature Eddie Griffin, Frank Sivero, and Johnny Brennan of The Jerky Boys.

  • 6. Larger Than Life -- Backstreet Boys

    In 1999, Joseph Kahn directed this $2.1 million-dollar music video, which holds a Guinness World Record for the 14th most expensive music video. It also broke the record for longest running number one on MTV’s Total Request Live. Kahn directed the boy band’s music video for “Everybody” two years prior.

  • 5. Bad -- Michael Jackson

    With a big budget of $2.2 million, the full music video is an 18-minute short film written by novelist and screenwriter Richard Price, shot by Michael Chapman, and directed by Martin Scorsese. At the time of production in 1987, “Bad” was the most expensive music video of all time. The video was shot in Brooklyn over a 6-week period, featuring many references to West Side Story, with elements of Jackson’s iconic “moonwalking” incorporated to keep it modern.

  • 4. 2 Legit 2 Quit -- MC Hammer

    Rupert Wainwright’s $2.5 million-dollar music video was almost as long as Jackson’s “Bad.” The 1991 music video for “2 Legit 2 Quit” is nearly 15 minutes long, with plenty of cameos. Jim Belushi plays a newscaster reporting on Hammer’s apparent decision to quit the music business, as well as responses from a number of celebrities, including James Brown, Danny Glover, Henry Winkler, Mark Wahlberg, Eazy-E, DJ Quik, 2nd II None, Tony Danza, Queen Latifah and Milli Vanilli. Even professional athletes made cameos for the star-studded video, including Isiah Thomas, Kirby Puckett, Jerry Rice, Rickey Henderson, Wayne Gretzky, Chris Mullin, Roger Clemens, and David Robinson.

  • 3. Rollin' (Air Raid Vehicle) -- Limp Bizkit

    The y2k rap rock band had their frontman, Fred Durst direct this $3 million dollar video. Filming took place in September 2000 atop the South Tower of the original World Trade Center in New York City. The introduction features cameos with Ben Stiller and Stephen Dorff mistaking Durst for the valet. The video was filmed around the same time as Stiller’s film Zoolander, which features a small cameo of Durst as well. The “Rollin'” video received the award for Best Rock Video at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards. Durst said the music video was the band’s way of poking fun at what people thought they were and embraced it.

  • 2. Estranged -- Guns N' Roses

    At nearly ten minutes long, “Estranged” is the longest song on Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion II and second longest song overall after “Coma.” Andy Morahan directed the $4 million-dollar music video in 1993, and it is the third and final chapter in Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain music video trilogy” with previous videos “Don’t Cry” and “November Rain.” Frontman Axl Rose’s then-girlfriend Stephanie Seymour (who played his girlfriend in the aforementioned videos) had broken up with him before shooting the video, so he and the director had to abandon their original plans.

  • 1. Express Yourself -- Madonna

    David Fincher directed this 1989 music video with a $5 million-dollar budget. “Express Yourself” was the most expensive of all time at the time of production, making Madonna the artist with the most expensive videos of all time combined with “Die Another Day” and “Bedtime Story.” The song was a tribute to American funk and soul band Sly and the Family Stone, with the main inspiration being female empowerment. At the time, Madonna’s masculine image in the video was gender-bending.

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