Everyone in the creative industry has heard the phrase “for exposure”. “We can’t pay you, but we can give you a lot of exposure . . .”
It implies your work will be seen by a new audience, but it also means you will not get paid. Small music performances at cafés, fliers for a friend’s new business, or a two-minute dance solo at a non-profit event are all possibilities. Creative people are more likely than any other type of professional to be requested to work for free, but is it really worth it? Let’s take a look at the world’s biggest exposure event: the Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl is one of the most anticipated and watched sporting events every year. It has been a tradition for American football fans to come together and watch the annual championship game between the National Football League’s best teams.
The event has grown in popularity since its first telecast in 1967 and has become a global phenomenon that attracts millions of viewers in the US and around the world. The Super Bowl is a great example of how sports can bring people together and create a shared experience. The annual event is full of excitement, entertainment, and anticipation as fans await the big game.
The Super Bowl is more than just a sporting event as it has become an important part of popular culture. Many Americans consider the Super Bowl to be a national holiday, taking place on the first Sunday of every February. The day includes get-togethers with friends, family, and co-workers to watch the game and the well-known advertisements that accompany it. The showmanship of the half-time performance, where some of the biggest stars in music perform, adds to the spectacle of the event.
The Super Bowl half-time show is an event watched and studied by millions of viewers each year. It has become a pop culture phenomenon, with some of the biggest names in entertainment performing on the world’s biggest stage. This year’s show was no exception, featuring Rihanna as the headliner.
It doesn’t come up as a shocker that the Super Bowl is able to attract phenomenal creatives such as Rihanna (and previously acts such as Michael Jackson, Madonna and The Weeknd). An average 30 second ad spot during the Super Bowl costs an estimated US$6,5 million. You’d be excused for believing that the musical superstars who contribute their skills to the year’s most significant game also make millions of dollars — but you’d be incorrect.
The unexpected truth is that half-time performers at the Super Bowl are not compensated. The NFL covers all expenditures associated with the production of the half-time show, but the talent does not get paid (although the NFL foots the bill for their travel expenses).
The expense of production, even for a thirteen-minute section, can be prohibitively expensive, with the 2020 performance by Jennifer Lopez and Shakira reportedly costing the NFL around $13 million. This price covers the wages of up to 3 000 production workers, as well as the sophisticated technical aspects of the show, such as a foldable, 38-part stage and large audio equipment hauled in on 18 carts.
So what’s in it for performers? Something familiar to freelance writers, designers and small artistes everywhere: exposure.
Performing on one of the world’s largest, most televised platforms can result in significant financial advantage in the form of increased music sales (nearly 100 million viewers tuned in to last year’s game, which was the lowest ratings since 2007). When Justin Timberlake appeared in 2018, his music sales increased 534 percent on the same day; Lady Gaga’s digital catalogue sales increased 1 000 percent following her 2017 performance.
Thanks to the Super Bowl, Rihanna’s streaming numbers increased by 640 percent, she has gained 1,5 million new Instagram followers in less than 24 hours and searches of Fenty beauty are up by 833 percent. Clearly there was a juicy return on investment. Good for her.
The bigger picture
As it stands right now, the half time show is only for artistes who can afford to work for free. It’s not like Rihanna, The Weekend, Shakira, Michael Jackson or JLo need a check from the NFL. This is coming from a place of privilege, from people who have already gained influence and exposure from their previous work. This means that the half-time show will only be influenced by people who can afford to make that decision to work for free and there’s not a lot of creatives in the world who can say that.
Five million more people watched the halftime show more than the actual game itself. The half-time show brought in 118,7 million viewers compared to the actual game with 113 million viewers. Even at the game some fans were putting on shirts which read: “Rihanna concert interrupted by a football game, weird but whatever.”
This further shows that Rihanna already has the exposure she needs in the music industry and is even more influential than the game itself. Essentially, the “exposure” the NFL offers the half-time show performer is just the cherry on top of the cake the performer has already baked.
It means that small or upcoming artistes who really need this “exposure” that the NFL offers have no chance of performing during the half-time show. The NFL only wants to put the cherry on top, but doesn’t want to bake the cake. There was even talk a few years ago about an NFL proposal to make artists pay to perform during the superbowl. Talk about paying for “exposure.”
As far as the future is concerned, don’t expect to hear any fresh voices during the half-time show. There are sure going to be a lot of privileged creatives looking for a quick bump on their streaming numbers.
Leslie Mupeti is a brand strategist and creative Innovator. He can be reached for feedback on [email protected] or +263 785 324 230. His Twitter and Facebook is @lesmupeti