Why Beyoncé Will Make No Bills, Bills, Bills for Her Super Bowl Performance

Beyoncé, like every past Super Bowl act, won't be getting paid to perform in the halftime show. But she'll definitely profit in other ways

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GARY HERSHORN / REUTERS

Beyonce performs during the half time show in the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game in New Orleans, Louisiana, Feb. 3, 2013.

These days, the Super Bowl is less about pigskin than it is about greenbacks. Television networks cough up billions of dollars to air it, then charge companies marketing beer, babes and tax-preparation software $4 million for just 30 seconds of screen time during it. NFL coaches can score bonuses worth as much as half a million for winning it, and athletes earn an extra $44,000 just for playing in it.

But there’s one entity in this vast entertainment extravaganza that won’t be making a dime from the NFL on Super Bowl Sunday: Beyoncé, the halftime performer.

From the time of the Super Bowl I halftime show, when the University of Arizona and the University of Michigan marching bands performed, the NFL has not paid performers an appearance fee. This tradition has been maintained even though the marching-band shows of the 1960s and ’70s have since been replaced by world-famous acts like the Rolling Stones, the Who and now Beyoncé.

Why would artists donate time and energy to help a television network keep the football audience in front of their TVs for several extra rounds of high-priced commercials? According to Who front man Roger Daltrey, the Super Bowl is an opportunity for increased exposure, even for a band that’s already sold 100 million records. “You can be touring like we have for 50 years, and there’s billions of people who have still never heard of you,” Daltrey says. “That’s the nature of the media these days.”

When the Who performed at Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, they played for an audience of 106 million television viewers in the U.S. in addition to the 74,000 people at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Last year Madonna’s halftime show actually garnered more viewers than the game itself, making it the most watched event in television history. From the NFL’s perspective, such publicity is payment enough.

“We’re putting someone up there for 12 and a half minutes in front of the largest audience that any television program garners in the United States,” says Lawrence Randall, director of programming for the NFL. “It’s a pretty good deal. It’s the famous win-win for both parties.”

(MORE: 5 Top Trends for 2013 Super Bowl Commercials)

Indeed, the Who did win on the charts. Digital purchases of the band’s music quadrupled the week after its Super Bowl performance, according to Nielsen, and physical albums also saw a large spike in sales. When the Black Eyed Peas performed in 2011, their digital sales jumped from 196,000 tracks pre–Super Bowl to 406,000 the next week. Madonna’s catalog performed similarly last year. Predictably, the songs actually sung during halftime received the biggest boost.

In addition to the boost to the bottom line, performing at the Super Bowl acts as a type of affirmation of an artist’s pop-culture ubiquity. In recent years, the halftime show has shifted away from gathering an ensemble of current artists and instead centers on one blockbuster act. “Your grandma watches it, your parents watch it, your cousins, no matter what age they are,” Randall says. “We’re looking to entertain the largest group of people we possibly can.”

Though the artist isn’t getting paid, the halftime show is still an expensive affair. The NFL pays for the staging and production of the event, which a league official confirmed cost millions of dollars. PepsiCo is serving as the halftime show’s sponsor this year, organizing a crowdsourced halftime-show introduction that has received more than 100,000 fan submissions. Though Pepsi declined to disclose the terms of its deal with the NFL, the league’s previous halftime sponsorship deal with Bridgestone Tires was worth an estimated $10 million over three years.

While the artists get boosted exposure and record sales, the NFL — and more critically, advertisers — gets an assurance that fans won’t change the channel while players hit the locker room. Back in 1992, while the halftime show on CBS honored the Winter Olympics, Fox aired a special live episode of their hit sketch comedy show In Living Color during the time slot. The episode pulled in 22 million viewers and sent Super Bowl viewership tumbling 22%. The next year, the NFL booked Michael Jackson for halftime — yes, for free — and the event has been a spectacle ever since.

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Months of planning lead up to the 12 minutes of entertainment that are now a tentpole of American pop culture. Approximately 500 volunteers, typically residents of the game’s host city, are responsible for building and then breaking down the stage in a matter of minutes. “It’s quite a difficult spot to do,” Daltrey says. “People really, really sweat to get that thing right, and not just the artist. There’s hundreds of people behind them. It’s like an army on the move.”

Daltrey says the Who, who did a medley of hits like “Pinball Wizard” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” recorded a version of their performance prior to the game but also played the songs live on the field. The telecast alternated between the two versions. “You want to do as good as you can, but you’re never in charge of those events,” he says. “Sometimes they don’t use what you’re singing. They have to do this process to cover themselves because if they get a technical glitch, you’re going to have 12 minutes of someone you’re not going to hear at all.” An NFL official declined to clarify whether use of a backing track is typical for Super Bowl performances.

The show, which had cycled through a number of older acts following Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” in 2004, has been inching toward contemporary acts in recent years, with artists like the Black Eyed Peas, M.I.A. and Usher taking the stage. Such artists may stand to gain even more financially from a Super Bowl gig as digital sales come to dominate the music market. The boost in digital sales has consistently increased over the past three years, likely because viewers can act on an impulse to buy an artist’s music without even leaving the couch. “While the game is playing or after the game is done, you see those boosts start to pick up,” says Dave Bakula, senior vice president for client insights at Nielsen. “This is instantaneous.”

(MORE: Super Bowl XLVII: 9 Wacky Ways of Predicting the Winner)

The halftime show has essentially become “a five-song commercial,” Bakula says. Like the commercials, Beyoncé’s performance will likely be heavily dissected in the coming week, and she’ll be compared with previous acts like Madonna and the Who.

However it turns out, Daltrey says the spectacle itself is worthy of admiration. “It’s a challenge for everybody. We take it so for granted,” he says. “Every artist on that stage has got an enormous pair of balls just to do it in the first place.”

25 comments
robertotambien
robertotambien

Beyonce and the girls were beautiful and certainly talented, but I would never buy any of the music she performed. This was more 'entertainment' than music.

VickiPetrucci
VickiPetrucci

I thinkfor the next Super Bowl, Eric Johnson should do the halftime. He already did the Star Spangled Banner at a baseball game and nailed it! This guy is the real deal. No more of these crappy, talentless acts.

AfGuy
AfGuy

@VickiPetrucci He'd have to go a bit to beat what Whitney Houston did with her rendition at the Superbowl... that's STILL a treasure.

EagleTeck
EagleTeck

i thought she got paid crazy money. Gaggafi's son paid her 2M for a 5 hour show LOL

now gotta google the inauguration ... that can't be free too 

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

Oh, and Beyonce is a joke.

Nothing more than a lip-syncing fraud.

sandifjm
sandifjm like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@mrbomb13I'm not a fan of what generally passes for "pop" music these days, but Beyonce as a vocal talent, is incredibly gifted, and anyone accusing her of being a "fraud" has likely never performed in public before. You just can't show up at an OUTDOOR venue, without having had a chance to rehearse with the band, or do a proper soundcheck, and hope that everything will go off without a hitch, because it won't. While one could argue that the organizers, or Beyonce could have insisted on adequate preparations - they didn't. So her reasons for not performing live are valid. I wouldn't play a church basement for 10 of my friends without a soundcheck - forget an inauguration.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

@sandifjm @mrbomb13 

I appreciate your reply, and should have clarified my comment to reflect the challenges of performing in public (something which I have indeed never done).

However, that raises the following questions:

1) Why was no time given for a pre-game sound check?

2) Why was no time given for a band rehearsal?

3) Why was no insistence given for items 1 & 2?

Then, if you want to get philosophical - if all Beyonce did was prance around on-stage for 11 minutes lip syncing, would it be fair to call it a Half-Assed Half-Time Performance?  After all, no actual singing was involved, just a bunch of hip-thrusts.  Any high school dance team could have done the same thing.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

That Half-time Show was T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E!!!

Beyonce and her dancers looked like a troupe of hookers, and sounded like zoo animals on the stage.

The only "entertainment" value was for perverts trying to see through the lingerie...

jrcomo35713
jrcomo35713

@mrbomb13  Dude, if you are not in tune with today's performers, then you are missing the boat to make such a comment. If you never performed in from of millions of people, then take a chill and stop all the judging. Your version of zoo animals tells me that you are actually in tuned to yesteryear so you my friend are clueless.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

First, thank you for your reply.  Just a couple of clarifications:

1) As a 25-year old, I am 'in tune' with today's performers, and will listen to them when I get the chance (during my commute, or while in the gym). 

2) Your definition of a "performance" must only encompass 1) repeated hip thrusts, and 2) lip-syncing every single number.  That sounds like a choreographed dance performance, and not an actual singing performance. 

3) Compare the sounds of zoo animals (especially the hyenas and banschees) with that of the Super Bowl Halftime Show, and note the similarities.

4) My definition of a performance encompasses those who can do more than air-hump (i.e. actually sing).  I am not a fan of "talent" who are not as talented as they sell themselves to be.

StevensMiller
StevensMiller like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

"Madonna’s halftime show actually garnered more viewers than the game itself, making it the most watched event in television history." Unless she pulled in more than 600,000,000 (and I don't think even Madonna can add half-a-billion on top of the fans), the most watched event in television history remains Neil Armstrong's first step on the moon.

lsuwriting13
lsuwriting13

Great article, I did not know that at all. I'd bet anything Jay-Z makes an appearance. 


GNARK1LL420
GNARK1LL420 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

At least The Who didn't have to lip sync there performance.

idiotkiller
idiotkiller

@GNARK1LL420 you are an idiot.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

@idiotkiller @GNARK1LL420 

You have no appreciation of real talent and artistry.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

@GNARK1LL420 

Your post just made me laugh so hard!  Skrillex/LMFAO/Jonas cannot hold a candle to the older artists when it comes to talent.

GNARK1LL420
GNARK1LL420

@mrbomb13 @idiotkiller @GNARK1LL420 Kind of reminds me of the post I seen on a Jimi Hendrik's video where someone said that "Musicians like Skrillex and LMFAO and even the Jonas brothers have more technology and knowledge at their disposal to make better quality songs."

GNARK1LL420
GNARK1LL420 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Well excuse me for wanting to listen to artist actually sing their songs live. If I wanted prerecorded music I will just listen to a CD/MP3 and whatnot.

reallife
reallife like.author.displayName 1 Like

i guess they must be really worried about the lip synching fiasco - that PR machine is working overtime  

oh just shut up and synch!

lol

BlueZolar
BlueZolar like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

So SONGS get performed for FREE because they GET increased EXPOSURE  to a large audience which spikes the SALES of their SONGS both Digital Download Sales and even Physical Album Sales. Yet we have the RIAA and Record Companies SUING people for sharing songs they paid for on YouTube and other Social Media which does the same thing as the Super Bowl halftime show because  it increases exposure which they admit increases sales. HYPOCRITES! Oh, can I use the word "Super Bowl' in my speech without getting SUED by the NFL for trademark infringement.  Forget Free speech we have become a country of "Fee Speech".

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace like.author.displayName 1 Like

@BlueZolar Agree with you, and add, where do I go boo hoo because they are not being paid.  When I saw the headline I was thinking that perhaps the artists were giving their fee to charity.....oops, confusing them with decent folks.  With all the freaking money the NFL gets, the network gets, the players, etc. wouldn't it be nice for someone to do something for a good cause.  The simple "we do it for exposure which will sell lots of records" is really so lame.  By the way, I'd love for two things to happen in all NFL games; bring back the marching bands and stop showing us talking heads all the time.

DillWeed
DillWeed like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

So this isn't really new news at all.

I hope the game is good.