The 7 Most Expensive Albums Of All Time



With home recording being more accessible than ever, more and more music is being produced in bedrooms all over the world, and almost anyone can hook up an audio interface to their laptop and get recording. The quality of these productions will vary, of course, but these days you can get yourself a pretty decent sounding album on a fairly tight budget.

However, if you’ve got the cash, there are all sorts of ways by which you can rack up the recording costs to ludicrous proportions. With that in mind, we thought we’d have a look at the most expensive albums ever made!

7 - Metallica - The Black Album: $1 million


The 7 Most Expensive Albums Of All Time

What is it?
Considered to be one of the most important and endlessly influential metal albums of all time, Metallica’s self-titled fifth album doesn’t really need an introduction. The Black Album shot Metallica into superstardom, in fact it shot them so far into the atmosphere that it took them the best part of a decade (and some..not so great albums) to come back down.

Why was it so expensive?
Helmed by legendary rock producer Bob Rock (yes, that is actually his real name), he insisted the band record as many takes as they needed to get the songs right. Rock forced Metallica to write and record in conditions that they weren’t used to, such as working collaboratively on the songwriting process and recording as many tracks live as possible, and the result was an album that took forever to make, and time is money!

Was it any good?
Yeah, it’s not bad. Metallica contains some of the band’s all-time greatest songs, such as Enter Sandman, Sad But True, Wherever I May Roam and The Unforgiven, was met with widespread acclaim from both metal journalists and mainstream publications, and cultivated a crossover following almost never achieved by a heavy metal band before them. A performance at the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert in 1992 pretty much sealed the deal, and Metallica went on to change the face of metal forever.

6 - Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: $3 million


The 7 Most Expensive Albums Of All Time

What is it?
The fifth studio album from Kanye West, you might have heard of him. Features All Of The Lights and Power. Look, you’ve heard something off this. It’s massive.

Why was it so expensive?
Def Jam Records reportedly put up $3 million to produce the album, with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy racking up a features list that reads like a directory of “everyone famous in the music industry”, which can’t have been cheap. All three of Avex Recording Studio in Honolulu’s session rooms were block booked by West for 24 hours a day, with the rapper moving to a different room if he’d hit a creative block in another one. It’s opulent, it’s overblown. It’s Kanye West, what do you expect?

Was it any good?
Widely held up as one of Kanye’s best albums, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy released to near-universal acclaim, sitting at a rating of 94/100 on metacritic as we speak. It’s regularly featured on “greatest albums” lists, sold an absolute ton of copies and further catapulted Kanye to the absolutely ludicrous stardom that he enjoys today. So it did okay.

5 - Korn - Untouchables: $4 million


The 7 Most Expensive Albums Of All Time

What is it?
The follow up to the American Nu-Metal giants’ hugely successful, but tepidly received Issues, and fifth album in the band’s discography. Released in 2002, the genre was already in the throes of it’s swan song, and Untouchables didn’t do much to turn the tide.

Why was it so expensive?
According to frontman Jonathan Davis, the record actually only cost around 700 thousand dollars to make (although that’s hardly a cheap recording session), but instead of allowing their crew the 2 years that it would take them to make the record off and risking them moving on to pastures new, Korn decided to pay their salaries for two years, as well as the rental on five houses for $10,000 a piece for four months. That’ll do it.

Was it any good?
Despite releasing to reasonably good reviews, beyond Here To Stay you’d struggle to name a song off of this album. Sales were not helped by it leaking onto file-sharing sites almost 3 months before release, and Eminem’s third album The Eminem Show kept it off the billboard top spot, all resulting in a fairly lacklustre offering from the once titans of the genre.

4 - Garth Brooks - ..In The Lift Of Chris Gaines: $5 million


The 7 Most Expensive Albums Of All Time

What is it?
A bizarre one-off attempt by country superstar Garth Brooks to release an album under the guise of fictional rock persona, Chris Gaines. No, we don’t really know why either.

Why was it so expensive?
It’s reported that over 50 musicians were used during the recording of this odd experiment, and that the $5 million cost was topped only by the record label spending three times that on promotion for the failed album. The true cost of Chris Gaines was footed by Capitol Records president Pat Quigley, who lost his job as a result of the album’s miserable commercial performance.

Was it any good?
Chris Gaines puzzled critics and fans alike, with no one really being able to grasp what the project’s purpose was. The confusion, coupled with a mediocre reception to the music featured on the record, resulted in a flop best resigned to history’s recycling bin. I’m sure Brooks would agree.

3 - Def Leppard - Hysteria: £8 million


The 7 Most Expensive Albums Of All Time

What is it?
The fourth and most successful album from ‘80s Sheffield rockers Def Leppard. This is the one where the drummer lost the arm. This is the album with Pour Some Sugar On Me and Rocket on it. This is 62 and a half minutes of chest-beating, stonewash denim wearing, hairspray abusing ‘80s glory.

Why was it so expensive?
Once again the culprit is time - Hysteria’s three year long production was plagued by costly delays, most notably drummer Rick Allen’s car accident that resulted in him losing his left arm. The huge cost of the record meant that the band would have to sell 5 million copies before they’d even break even. Nail-biting stuff for any young band (or, more likely, their label).

Was it any good?
Hysteria not only features a ton of beloved fan-favourite songs, it went on to absolutely dominate the charts around the world for years following it’s release. The record currently holds the title of 51st best selling album of all time in the United States (tied with Bruce Springsteen’s Born In the USA for context), and to date has sold over 20 million copies.

2 - Guns N’ Roses - Chinese Democracy: $13 million


The 7 Most Expensive Albums Of All Time

What is it?
You knew this one was coming, didn’t you? The sixth (and still the latest) studio album from rock titans GNR, the band having faded slightly from the glory days of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, but still very much retaining their considerable fan-base (at least at the time of the record’s announcement). The album’s title is now synonymous with all things ludicrously overblown and overdue, so for the uninitiated, that should give you a clue as to how this one ends..

Why was it so expensive?
Chinese Democracy began life somewhere between 1993 and 1997, with Geffen Records reporting that Axl and the gang were working on “50-60” songs - I personally would say that’s not a great start. Rose’s perfectionism had already become the stuff of legend (he reportedly had worked on nine minute epic November Rain for 9 years before the song was released), but without long-time bandmates Slash & Duff McKagan to reign him in, his obsessive compulsive disorder had taken over. The result was ten long, very expensive years of missed release dates, songs being endlessly written, scrapped, and rewritten, band members being fired or leaving of their own accord, and battles with their own management and label.

Was it any good?
When Chinese Democracy finally released in November 2008, it was pretty much universally panned, with critics citing boring, meandering songs and dreadful production as the main offenders. For the rest of us, it raised more questions than it had answered. Why did this take so long? Why hasn’t the album been mastered properly? Why is it called Chinese Democracy? What is that artwork all about? Ultimately, it could never have lived up to the hype, but at least China had the good grace to ban it.

1 - Michael Jackson - Invincible: $30+ million


The 7 Most Expensive Albums Of All Time

What is it?
The King Of Pop's tenth and final studio album, and the last to be recorded before the singer's death in 2009. Fittingly, Invincible is the most expensive album ever made by a considerable distance.

Why was it so expensive?
When the recording sessions for your album run on for four years, you might find that the studio bills start to add up. Jackson began recording Invincible in October 1997, and these ran on until August 2001, passing through the hands of 9 lavishly expensive producers. Not to mention the preposterous $25 million promotional budget, which all adds up to make this album an insanely expensive endeavour. Plus, it's Michael Jackson. So, you know.

Was it any good?
Well.. it's hardly filled with MJ classics, is it? While there's no Thriller or Billie Jean present on this record, when an artist is in the twilight of their career they can be forgiven for not scaling the heady heights of their golden years. Invincible released to fairly mediocre reviews, averaging 2-3 stars from pretty much every major publication at the time, and currently sits with a 51 on metacritic. Still though, you've heard You Rock My World haven't you?
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