We take a historical look into times when the record industry gave birth to the most expensive albums ever. Will we ever see recording budgets like these again?
As online audience retention has become the new metric for success in entertainment, recording budgets these days are only a fraction of what they once were.
The Most Expensive Albums Ever Made
We’re taking a look back at some of the extravagant album productions of all time and uncovering some of the reasons the recording process took so long.
Terms like “Suffering for your art” and “Labour of love” do come to mind, but we’ll let you decide whether these gargantuan recording budgets were justified or not.
5. The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Even though The Beatles didn’t live the most exulted lifestyles during recording when compared with their modern pop equivalents, Sgt Pepper’s was still an indulgent production in time and money.
The Fab Four and George Martin used over 700 hours of studio time to create what is commonly referred to as a masterpiece of recorded music.
£25,000 was incredibly costly back in 1967, but one could argue that without digital recording at their disposal, The Beatles were more than justified to take all the time they needed.
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4. Korn – Untouchables (2002)
Korn’s fifth studio album, Untouchables (2002), stacked up a whopping $4 million in recording costs over the course of the album’s production.
According to the band’s press statements at the time, a large chunk of the budget was spent on relocating the project between Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Canada where each of the five members rented their own mansions at over $10,000 per week.
Although Untouchables did sell 5 million copies, it couldn’t match the band’s previous record Issues (1999) which sold an astounding 13 million copies.
3. Def Leppard – Hysteria (1987)
After drummer Rick Allen’s 1984 car crash claimed his left arm, most people wrote off his music career completely. However, the band stood by him during his rehabilitation and the time it took for him to train himself as a single-armed drummer.
During Hysteria‘s 3-year recording period, Mutt Lange the producer left the project as a result of burning out, and when he returned demanded that much of the material be rerecorded.
The result was a happy ending though, as the $4.5 million album went on to sell over 25 million copies, making it one of the greatest rock albums of all time.
2. Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy (2008)
Infamously, the production of the Guns N’ Roses album, Chinese Democracy, took a staggering 14 years. Over this time, Slash, Matt Sorum, Gilby Clarke, and Duff McKaga all departed from the band willingly or not.
What was even more outlandish is that once the album was rerecorded with the new lineup in place, the band again went through another purge of personnel and an additional rerecording took place in 2000.
By the time the album was finally released in 2008, it had cost over $13 million dollars, which was spent on various major studios, producers, and unused gear rentals.
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1. Michael Jackson – Invincible (2001)
As you’d expect, Michael Jackson’s final studio album Invincible has the highest reported production cost of any recorded album ever produced.
It’s estimated that Sony spent over $30 million during the 5-year recording process. Over this time, 3 high-end studios were booked to allow Michael the comfort and creative freedom to create between 50 and 87 songs with his team of some of the greatest producers and songwriters in the industry.
Once production was completed, a major rift developed between Sony and Michael, despite the label spending a further $25 million on marketing.
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