Riff Rant: NFL Gets Dumb with Super Bowl Pay to Play Idea


As the National Football League (NFL) meanders through a series of meaningless, cash-grab exhibition games, the Wall rihanna-1Street Journal [via SPIN, Consequence of Sound, and Rolling Stone) is reporting that the league is asking artists considered for this year’s Super Bowl halftime concert if they’d be willing pay for the opportunity to play.

The shortlist, reports WSJ, includes Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Coldplay – three acts who have zero trouble raking in dough from touring.

According to the story, the NFL “asked at least some of the acts if they would be willing to contribute a portion of their post-Super Bowl tour income to the league, or if they would make some other type of financial contribution, in exchange for the halftime gig.” Not to Riffyou.com’s surprise, the reaction from the artists approached about this has been described as “chilly.”

Sounds like a good ole fashion battle between a multi-billion dollar corporation and multi-millionaire musicians. Ah, first world problems.

That said, if the NFL is in fact taking this stance, it leads me to believe that on-field head injuries shouldn’t be its concern: maybe it’s time to check the noggins of those in the league’s board rooms.

Let’s look at this objectively for a split second. According to Rolling Stone, last year’s Super Bowl halftime performance featuring Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers brought in 115.3 million viewers, while the game itself attracted 112.2 million. So, simple mathematics would suggest that the artists – who don’t typically get paid to play the event – brought in an additional 3.1 million viewers to a segment of the game that has a separate presenting (and paying!) sponsor.

Yes, artists get production and travel costs covered (reports Rolling Stone), and usually experience a bump in album/single sales and tour revenue thanks to the extra exposure that the Super Bowl brings. So, why does the league need more money here?

From the sounds of it, the two parties already appear to be benefitting quite handsomely from one another. The NFL gets to haul in more sponsorship and advertising money; great PR; and a non-football audience for a significant chunk of time, while artists receive cache and a bump in their annual paycheque. Why must the issue be complicated any further?

Oh, it’s because out of all professional sports leagues, the NFL is arguably the greediest of them all. Over the past few years the league has been subject to litigation from former players and their families regarding the league’s ‘once’ lackadaisical head injury/concussion protocol that has allegedly led to untimely deaths and severe medical issues for individuals once they left the game.

A class action lawsuit featuring more than 4,500 plaintiffs – regarding head injuries – was eventually settled for $765 million in 2013. To many, the NFL appeared to get a bargain.

In or around that time, the league began discussing adding more games to its regular season schedule. Why? Money, money, and more money. What about players’ long-term health? Well…

The point is that the NFL looking make money at any opportunity it sees fit isn’t a new strategy for it. That said, high and mighty figures in the music industry – which the league targets – generally play by the same strategy.

Good luck NFL. Keep this up, and you’ll be begging for third-rate talent.

-Adam Grant

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