List of most expensive albums

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Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)'s billboard for its 50th anniversary. An early example of an expensive album.

The following is a list of the most expensive albums made with a recorded sum of over $1 million, sorted by the most money spent in promotional campaigns and album covers. The recording process traditionally requires an investment in studio time and skilled record production labor, and the process can be expensive.[1]

In the late 1950s, the cost of producing pop albums runs from $3,000 to $7,000.[2] The average cost of producing an album climbed to $15,000 in the 1960s.[3] Early examples of record-breaking expensive albums include Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) with a reported sum of £25,000,[4][a] alongside Tommy (1969) and Pet Sounds (1966) each with a cost of $70,000,[6][7] as well as unfinished album Smile whose single "Good Vibrations" (1966) alone had a budget between $50,000 and $75,000,[b] more than most entire albums cost in those days.[9] Multiple albums were budgeted with a cost between $350,000 and $500,000 by late 1970s,[10] whereas popular rock albums had an average of $100,000 and as high as $500,000 by the midpoint of the decade.[11][c] Some albums were produced on a $1 million budget by 1981.[10] Accountant John McClain gave an estimated cost of $2.5 million for a Michael Jackson record in 1987.[14] Nowadays, according to IFPI, production costs for popular albums are "generally budgeted for at least $200,000, and if much studio time is used, costs can soar well past $350,000".[1] Some artist's sponsorships covered the cost of producing the album, most notoriously Mariah Carey between the Bahamas Board of Tourism with her album Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel (2009).[15][16]

The first album to cost over $1 million is believed to be Tusk (1979) by Fleetwood Mac.[17] Chinese Democracy (2008) by Guns N' Roses, once included as the most expensive record in the Guinness World Records, probably cost over $1 million per year during its recording sessions from 1998 to 2006.[18] With a cost between $30 and $40 million, Michael Jackson's Invincible (2001) remains the most expensive album ever produced.[19][20][21] Both Michael Jackson and Kanye West have multiple appearances, with at least four each.

List of albums by recorded costs[edit]

Released Album Artist Recorded Approx cost Adjusted cost
(in 2023 dollars)
Ref.
2001 Invincible[d] Michael Jackson 1997–2001 $30–40 million $51,621,876/$68,829,167 [19][21][20]
2008 Chinese Democracy Guns N' Roses 1998–2007 $13 million $18,396,909 [23]
1995 HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I Michael Jackson 1979–1995 $10 million $19,995,632 [24]
1991 Dangerous Michael Jackson 1989–1991 $10–8 million $22,369,900/$17,895,920 [25][26][27]
2001 Victoria Beckham Victoria Beckham 1999–2001 £5 million £8,797,307 [28]
1987 Hysteria Def Leppard 1984–1987 $5–4.5 million $13,409,490/$12,068,541 [29][30][31]
1999 The Life of Chris Gaines[e] Garth Brooks $5 million $9,145,026 [31][33]
2009 Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel Mariah Carey 2009 £4 million £5,707,937 [15]
2002 Untouchables Korn 2001 $4 million[f] $6,775,948 [35]
1988 Non Stop Julio Iglesias $3 million $7,728,756 [36]
2010 My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Kanye West 2009–2010 $3 million $4,191,668 [37]
2015 Once Upon a Time in Shaolin Wu-Tang Clan 2007–2013 $3 million $3,856,240 [38]
2003 Deftones Deftones 2002 $2.5 million $4,140,738 [39]
1987 Bad Michael Jackson 1985–1987 $2 million $5,363,796 [40]
2005 Late Registration Kanye West 2004–2005 $2 million $3,120,123 [41]
2010 Superficial Heidi Montag 2007–2009 $2 million $2,794,445 [42]
2002 Sun With Love Ho Yeow Sun $1.6 million[g] $2,710,379 [43]
1982 Rock in a Hard Place Aerosmith 1981–1982 $1.5 million $4,735,862 [44]
1990 Charmed Life Billy Idol 1989–1990 $1.5 million $3,498,217 [45]
1993 Aries Luis Miguel 1992–1993 $1.5 million $3,163,787 [46]
2011 Watch the Throne Kanye West
Jay-Z
2010–2011 $1.5 million $2,031,657 [47]
2013 Yeezus Kanye West 2012–2013 $1.5 million $1,962,000 [47]
1979 Tusk Fleetwood Mac 1978–1979 $1.4 million $5,877,304 [48][49]
2012 Cruel Summer GOOD Music 2011–2012 $1.3 million $1,725,294 [47]
1979 The Long Run Eagles 1978–1979 $1 million $4,198,074 [50]
1981 For Those About to Rock We Salute You AC/DC 1981 $1 million $3,351,391 [51]
1982 Donna Summer Donna Summer 1981–1982 $1 million $3,157,241 [52]
1988 Brian Wilson Brian Wilson 1987–1988 $1 million[h] $2,576,252 [53][54][55]
1989 The Seeds of Love Tears for Fears 1986–1989 $1 million $2,457,987 [56]
1991 Metallica Metallica 1990–1991 $1 million $2,236,990 [57]
1995 The Woman in Me Shania Twain 1994–1995 $1 million[i] $1,999,563 [58]
1998 He Got Game Public Enemy 1997–1998 $1 million $2,576,252 [60]
1999 Ricky Martin Ricky Martin $1 million $1,829,005 [61]
2002 One by One Foo Fighters 2002 $1 million $1,693,987 [62]
2005 One Way Ticket to Hell... and Back The Darkness 2005 $1 million $1,560,061 [63]

List of albums by promotional budget/campaign cost[edit]

One of several 30-foot statues placed around Europe to promote the HIStory World Tour—the accompanying tour for Michael Jackson's HIStory (1995).
Released Album Artist Record label Budget
expenditure
Adjusted cost
(in 2023 dollars)
Ref.
1995 HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I Michael Jackson Sony / Epic Records $30 million $49,989,081 [64][65]
2001 Invincible[d] Michael Jackson Sony / Epic Records $25 million $43,018,230 [19][20][66]
2013 Artpop Lady Gaga Interscope Records $25 million $32,700,000 [67]
1999 Brand New Day Sting A&M Records $19 million $34,568,198 [68]
1999 The Life of Chris Gaines[e] Garth Brooks Capitol Records $15 million $27,435,078 [31][33]
2000 1 The Beatles Apple Records / EMI £11 million £19,697,070 [69]

Overview[edit]

Michael Jackson's HIStory (1995) has the most extensive marketing campaign in popular music history,[70] spent by a record label. Up to that point, a label might spent an average of $2 million in promotional campaigns for artists such as the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and Madonna, per release.[24] The lattermost, had the biggest Warner Records promotional campaign for an album up to the release of Like a Prayer (1989) with $2 million.[71] In contrast, according to Hank Bordowitz in Dirty Little Secrets of the Record Business (2007), mounting a successful promotional campaign for radio stations can cost between $250,000 and $1 million per song.[72]

Examples of associated campaigns outside record label's efforts include Born This Way (2011) by Lady Gaga, with a reported sum of $3 million provided by Amazon,[73] and Rihanna's sponsorship with Samsung for $25 million which covered the release of her album Anti (2016) and its tour.[74]

List of album covers/packaging by cost[edit]

This is a list of record-breaking historical expensive album covers or CD packaging.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Also cited with a cost at $100,000.[5]
  2. ^ Also cited with a cost at $25,000.[8]
  3. ^ By this point, Queen's A Night at the Opera (1975) began to be advertised as "the most expensive album ever made",[12] although the estimated cost was only £40,000 and such a label was later denied by the band.[13]
  4. ^ a b Other sources give a total cost of $65 million.[22] Most likely divided in the reported budget of $30–40 million and $25 million for promotional purposes.
  5. ^ a b Overall cost was at $20 million, which includes promotion and recording.[32]
  6. ^ Recording the album alone only cost $700,000.[34]
  7. ^ Recorded sum of production cost. At least $8 million was spent on the album.[43]
  8. ^ Another sum cited has been $800,000.
  9. ^ Another sum cited has been $750,000.[58] Then most expensive country album ever made.[59]
  10. ^ Also cited with a cost at £3,000.[77]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Book sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]