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Joe is a writer, bad musician, broadcasting type guy, and all around human. He writes things for The Hudsucker, and anywhere else that will publish him. And twitter @slothraps

Should Musicians Pay to Play at the Superbowl?

Source: NFL

Source: NFL

I consider myself an artist. What that means to me is that I like to create things, and I like people to consume those things. It gives me a sense of worth. The idea of a “Job Well Done”. Back in high school I was in a band and we played dozens of shows to dozens of people. It was fun, but it was work. We spent hours song writing and rehearsing, and driving, and setting up, and taking down, and loading, and unloading, and doing it all over again the next weekend. I think we got paid twice. Both times the paycheck was in the double digits, for all five of us to share. But at least we never had to pay a venue to play there, and if asked I know we would not have.

But some noise is being made that the NFL might want to charge some higher profile (and indeed higher skilled) musicians to play the half time show. This strikes me as slightly side eye worthy, but not entirely ridiculous.

Back when I was playing shows with my band-mates, there was always a pretty clear and understandable reason why we weren’t getting paid for gigs. The venue didn’t have the money to pay bands to come and use their sound system and stage to play some songs to their girlfriends and other bands and maybe a hipster or two. We didn’t sell enough tickets for them to make a profit on the show, so we didn’t get any money. That was frustrating, but fine. By a similar token, an argument could be made that the half time performers at the Super Bowl are not what people are buying tickets to see. Honestly, paying all that money to see a band or artist play in a space that’s not been built for good sound quality is a little silly. And indeed, it’s been stated in several places that most Super Bowl performers have been forced to lip-sync or pretend play their instruments to recordings because the sound in the stadium is so bad the performers would be unable to play coherently any other way. So the idea that the performers are bringing in the money for the NFL as Super Bowl acts is shaky at best.

Source: Rob Carr/Getty Images

On the other hand, the always over the top and often controversial half time show is an integral piece of the Super Bowl, whether or not it’s actually any good, or even, in itself, profitable. Because the real money from the Super Bowl does come from advertising more than ticket sales. With companies shelling out top dollar for a chance to sell their wares, the NFL has a desire, nay an obligation, to keep the home viewers watching the station, even when the game isn’t playing. The half time show is a big part of that. If Beyonce isn’t dancing around singing about being a survivor, then you’re just going to have what you have for every other football game, and that’s just a couple of dudes in suits analyzing the game for far too long to be entertaining. And once the show stops being entertaining then people stop watching that channel, and advertisers are then willing to pay less money for a time slot and the NFL makes less money.

So the question that ultimately needs to be asked is, who is benefiting more from the half time show? Is it the performer? I mean, I could be convinced to shell out some dough for the opportunity to share my music with literally millions of people in one shot. But at the same time, you do have to be rather well known to even get invited to play the Super Bowl. Or is it the NFL? Keeping people watching the station for ads is good for business, and the bigger the show the more people talk about it, and watch next year. On the other hand it does cost an awful lot of money to put on a show like that, and since the artist is benefiting too, why shouldn’t they help out a little?

Either way, I think this is really an extension of the idea that exposure for artists is just as good as money. The idea that the more people who are exposed to an artist, the more money the artist will make, and so, those doing the exposing are tangentially making the artists money. Whether this philosophy is logically sound or not may actually have to be decided by artists who already have money and exposure. I am interested to see what comes of this.

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