Metallica, Arcade Fire Reps Rip NFL’s Pay-for-Play Super Bowl Plan

"Obviously it is a marketing boon to play halftime for the Super Bowl," says one prominent agent. "But I hope that everybody tells them to go get stuffed"

James Hetfield of Metallica
Tabatha Fireman/Redferns/Getty Images
James Hetfield of Metallica performs at the Glastonbury Festival on June 28th, 2014. Reps for the band, Arcade Fire and others have blasted the NFL's reported pay-for-play Super Bowl plan.
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The NFL's reported plan to get major pop stars to pay for a coveted halftime appearance at next year's Super Bowl will work only if the pop stars participate. And several outraged music-business sources predict they won't. "Halftime's for sale," says Dennis Arfa, agent for Metallica, Billy Joel and Rush. "If I was a young band, and I had a billionaire backer, I'd buy my way to the Super Bowl — everybody would know me after the Super Bowl. Is Paul McCartney going to pay? I doubt it."

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The NFL reportedly invited Coldplay, Katy Perry and Rihanna to submit "pay to play" bids of unknown value for the halftime show. (Reps for each artist did not return requests for comment.) It's perhaps TV's most valuable marketing platform — after Bruno Mars headlined this year, he launched a worldwide tour that grossed $43 million by midyear, according to Pollstar, and Beyonce's post-Super Bowl 2013 tour made nearly $180 million. "Obviously it is a marketing boon to play halftime for the Super Bowl," says David T. Viecelli, agent for Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons and St. Vincent. "But I hope that everybody tells them to go get stuffed."

The NFL wouldn't give further details. "We've ruled out Janet Jackson," a spokesperson jokes, referring to the infamous wardrobe malfunction during the 2004 Super Bowl, "but beyond that we do not have a comment on talent discussions." The spokesperson did, however, send a 1,300-word email showing how recent halftime performers have dramatically boosted sales after performances — Madonna's tracks rose 165 percent in 2012, and the Who's jumped 392 percent in 2010. Reps for the NHL and NBA didn't respond to questions about whether the leagues would consider pay-to-play, but Major League Baseball said they have never asked artists to pay for appearances and have no plans to do so.

Agents and managers say the Super Bowl generally provides production costs but does not pay halftime performers — the event landed a record 112 million viewers this year, dwarfing any other TV show, which may be a clue as to why the NFL is beginning to flaunt its leverage on this issue.

"I'm not sure what artist in their right mind would give up a piece of their touring or ancillary sales to play the Super Bowl. If the NFL wants to charge artists to perform, I would just counter-program with another network and create our own halftime show," says Troy Carter, manager of John Legend, John Mayer and Meghan Trainor. "Let's say you put Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Meghan Trainor on one show during halftime — I'd be willing to bet you're going to get a pretty big audience." Adds another manager of a prominent artist: "With the revenue generated from all the sponsors the Super Bowl has, it seems a little strange. I'm trying to understand the reasoning."

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