The Super Bowl’s 2015 coveted halftime show slot will apparently be played by whoever puts down the most money. The NFL has laid out a “pay-to-play” scheme, inviting artists such as Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Coldplay to place bids of unknown amounts to secure a place in the show. Band managers are outraged at the idea. Metallica, Billy Joel, and Rush agent, Dennis Arfa, reportedly said, “Halftime’s for sale. If I was a young band, and I had a billionaire backer, I’d buy my way to the Super Bowl – everybody would know me after the Super Bowl. Is Paul McCartney going to pay? I doubt it,” according to Rolling Stone.
This pay-to-play is unprecedented by the NFL, as typically the Super Bowl provides artists with production costs, but does not pay them. In effect, it is free publicity for the musicians, and while they do not get paid, they do not incur costs. This past year, the show had a whopping 112 million views, which apparently warrants the NFL to ask for a little more than they have previously. As Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons, and St. Vincent’s agent David T. Viecelli put it, “Obviously it is a marketing boon to play halftime for the Superbowl. But I hope that everybody tells them to go get stuffed.”
In the NFL’s defense, past years have proven to show an increase in the artists’ sales post Super Bowl performances. Madonna’s sales in 2012, for example, jumped 165 percent, and in 2010, The Who’s went up a massive 392 percent. Band managers still don’t consider this an acceptable reason for enacting a pay-to-play scheme. “I’m not sure what artist in their right mind would give up a piece of their touring or ancillary sales to play the Super Bowl,” Troy Carter (John Legend, John Mayer, and Meghan Trainor‘s agent) told Rolling Stone. “If the NFL wants to charge artists to perform, I would just counter-program with another network and create our own halftime show. Let’s say you put Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Meghan Trainor on one show during halftime – I’d be willing to bet you’re going to get a pretty big audience.” If prominent band managers and artists’ reps continue to challenge the NFL on this design, the NFL will end up having to book a shoddy new rich band that will have viewers tuning out and heading to the kitchen for more food and drinks. Or else, like Carter suggested, a competing network will offer a deal similar to what the NFL had been doing in previous years, and the networks will discover what percentage of their viewers are watching for the sports, and what percentage are watching for the music.
Meanwhile, a petition established by Ed Ball is underway to persuade the White House to persuade the NFL to let Weird Al Yankovic play the upcoming halftime show. Read about it on the Encyclopedia of Music here. Read FDRMX’s thoughts on pay-to-play here.