Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Pay to Play, NFL-Style


The NFL is apparently strapped for cash.

The League that brings in more than $9.5 BILLION (with a B) per year is hurting, and it is asking for help from some super duper mega stars.

That is the assumption I’m making based on these repots from the Wall Street Journal that the NFL wants its Super Bowl Halftime performersto pay in order to play. According to the WSJ, the NFL has asked the three contenders for this year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show (Katy Perry, Rihanna and Coldplay) to give some of their post-Super Bowl income back to the NFL, or to “make some other type of financial contribution.”

The three artists listed above are not keen on the idea. Which isn’t surprising, considering it’s a ridiculous request. Here are two reasons why:

1) Artists who do the Super Bowl Halftime Show are not paid. Not a dime, not a nickel. The NFL gets to promote them to get people to tune in to the halftime show, the NFL gets to promote them to advertisers to get the halftime show sponsored, the NFL makes money from the advertisers who are paying because of all the people who are tuning in, but the artist doesn’t make a buck. The artist is already paying the NFL by not getting paid.

2) The NFL makes a boatload of money every year. The NFL does not need to ask these artists – who again, are NOT GETTING PAID TO PERFORM – to pay to play. It just comes across as greedy. You want more money, NFL? Raise your advertising rates. Sure, it’s still greedy, but at least it doesn’t seem as greedy as asking someone who is doing something for you FOR FREE to pay YOU.

But fine. If the NFL wants the artists to pay in order to play the halftime show, I would suggest that the artists merely put in two stipulations in the contract.

1) I (the artist) get a percentage of the advertising for the Super Bowl. Not just the halftime show – the entire Super Bowl. Since you are going to promote my halftime appearance as a reason for people to tune in to the game, and since advertisers are paying you because of all the people who are going to tune in to the game, I should get a cut.
2) I (the artist) am going to be giving up a lot of my time to prepare for this halftime show, so you’re going to reimburse me for all the concerts I wasn’t able to do. And I was going to do a lot of concerts. Like, one per day.

The argument I’ve heard in favor of the NFL’s request is that these musical acts become stars and make a lot of money following their Super Bowl Halftime appearance because of all the exposure they get. The premise is that the NFL is much more popular than these super stars, so the financial windfall they receive post-Super Bowl more than makes up for whatever percentage they give to the NFL. And I’m sure that these artists do see a spike in their popularity because of their halftime show appearance – which is why they agree to do the show FOR FREE. But I would like to frame my counterpoint to this argument as a question: how many songs, albums or concert tickets have you purchased from a Super Bowl Halftime show performer based on their Super Bowl Halftime Show performance?

It’s not like the NFL is getting up-and-coming stars whom no one has ever heard of before they signed on to do the Halftime Show. Bruno Mars and Red Hot Chili Peppers last year, Beyonce the year before that, Madonna before that…these are all HUGE stars who don’t need the NFL to boost their careers. The NFL needs them much more than they need the NFL, because the NFL is trying to bring in eyeballs who normally don’t watch football.

The NFL books super stars for its Super Bowl Halftime show so that it can promote the beejesus out of its Super Bowl Halftime show so that it can draw many more eyeballs than would normally watch a football game so that it can bring in a lot more advertising revenue. If the NFL felt confident that everyone would watch the game regardless of who was performing at halftime, it would simply promote the game itself and not even mention the halftime show. Or it would simply say that the halftime show will feature a special guest.

But hey, the NFL has a right to ask for whatever money it wants, because it’s a business and the primary goal of any business is to make as much money as it possibly can.

Oh.

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