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The NFL Shakedown

[ 162 ] August 19, 2014 |

This is impressive, if you are impressed by shakedowns:

Rihanna, Katy Perry, or Coldplay might be doing the Super Bowl halftime show this year—that is, if they’re willing to pay up. According to The Wall Street Journal, the NFL has narrowed down its list of potential performers for the 2015 gig to those three candidates, though it’s also asking “at least some of the acts” if they’d be willing to pay the league for the privilege of playing the halftime show—something that’s absolutely insane, but not 100 percent unreasonable, considering how many people actually watch the performance. Alternately (and this is where it gets wacky), they should “be willing to contribute a portion of their post-Super Bowl tour income to the league.”

Billionaires demanding not only payment from performers to play on their big stage but then shaking them down for millions after the performance. Nice. How long until owners demand a cut of their players’ promotional deals?


Comments (162)

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  1. Aimai says:

    Maybe they can get them to do it for free by calling them “interns.” After all–they can certainly parlay all that free publicity into something meaningful afterwards.

    • JMP says:

      And some companies actually have gone beyond the horribleness of unpaid internships, and started asking people to pay in order to work as interns:

      It’s disgusting. And the fact that the NFL is asking this of wealthy performers doesn’t make it any better.

      • efgoldman says:

        And the fact that the NFL is asking this of wealthy performers doesn’t make it any better.

        And like the NFL, they got wealthy by being paid a lot of money to perform.
        But they’re only musicians – fungible and disposable, just like the players.
        I’ve loved watching football for more than 50 years, since the famous Colts-Giants OT game. Hell, I’m older than the AFL. They’re certainly entitled to make money. But the level of arrogance and avarice in both the NFL and big time college football is coming close to driving me away.
        I can’t be the only one.

        • JMP says:

          I quit watching football a few years ago, when the Eagles made Michael Vick their starting quarterback, but with all that’s come out since then about the damage concussions have done to players, the NFL’s attempts to cover them up, and their rather horrid treatment of other employees like the cheerleaders and concession staff, which make the dog-fighting seem minor by comparison, I can’t in good conscience go back to watching now that he’s gone from Philly.

        • keta says:

          You’re not. For the reasons you cited and the ridiculous machismo, homophobia, ill treatment of support staff, the utter disregard for the safety of the players and myriad other reasons this long-time fan is thoroughly disenchanted and rarely watches a complete game.

    • efgoldman says:

      Maybe they can get them to do it for free

      My understanding is that they already played for free, for the notoriety and promotional value.

      • Brien Jackson says:

        This was my understanding as well. I mean, to be fair, it’s not as though we’re talking about young up and coming musician types being rankly exploited here.

        • efgoldman says:

          it’s not as though we’re talking about young up and coming musician

          Yeah, I’m surprised we haven’t seen Tony Bennett yet (not that there’s anything wrong with that – I might actually watch the show for a change) or maybe Zombie Frank Sinatra.

          • JMP says:

            They did have Tony Bennett perform, back in the 90s. Of course, recent performers have included the likes of The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and The Who, who appeal to much the same demographics.

            Looking at the list, the performers before the 90s were mostly just marching bands or Up With People. They seem pretty pathetic up until Michael Jackson in the 1993 Superbowl, who the NFL put on because people kept changing the channel to counter-programming during halftime.

            • drkrick says:

              The purpose of the big names is to hold eyeballs for the half time commercials. Anyone big enough to serve that purpose is unlikely to fall for a bar band style pay for play deal.

              Fox’s In Living Color was the first to counter program the SB halftime (theme: “Salute to the Winter Olympics.” No, really) in ’92 with a 20 minute segment they kicked off when the first half of the game ended. This was before Fox’s NFL contract of course, but their ratings were great and viewership for the SB halftime commercials tanked. Hence Michael Jackson in ’93 and the birth of the modern SB halftime.

          • Lee Rudolph says:

            I’m surprised we haven’t seen Tony Bennett yet

            I’d like to be around to pick up the pieces when somebody breaks his contract.

          • MAJeff says:

            maybe Zombie Frank Sinatra.

            Holographic, sure.

            • cpinva says:

              get an interstate SB, and don’t be at all surprised if Sinatra does the halftime. hell, they’ll excavate his corpse, and stick a mic in his rotting hand.

      • Peterr says:

        The musicians may have played for free (I don’t know), but you still have to pay the roadies and crew. For some acts, that’s a sizable chunk of change.

        Of course, for the NFL ownership, it’s always a good thing to stick it to union workers, even if it’s not their players’ union. Saving some money and bashing unionized workers is a win-win from their POV.

    • AlanInSF says:

      Also, the performers will agree to only play in NFL-controlled venues, to give an NFL bagman co-publishing credit on their future works, and to give the NFL a “courtesy payment” in return for having their records placed in jukeboxes or played on the radio.

  2. FridayNext says:

    But the NFL is a non-profit, so it should be tax deductible.

  3. MAJeff says:

    Grift or shakedown?

  4. ploeg says:

    I understand that Up With People is looking for some exposure.

  5. Fearless Navigator of the New LGM Comment System says:

    If Prince ever plays the Super Bowl again, maybe he can pay the NFL with a portion of his awesomeness.

    • The NFL would never be able to withstand his PurplAwesomoscisnous.

    • MAJeff says:

      A while back, there was a video circulating on FaceBook (and probably elsewhere) of the premier 1983 performance of Purple Rain at First Avenue.

      It was gone in a week. The Purple One can be as obsessive as any corporate giant…but good god is he amazing.

      • Fearless Navigator of the New LGM Comment System says:

        I actually watched the 2007 Super Bowl performance a few weeks ago and it was as good as I remembered. He’s a really awesome guitarist.

      • Dr. Ronnie James, DO says:

        He did this jaw-dropping version of Radiohead’s “Creep” at Coachella, basically like Purple Rain: same slow pacing and in between verses just doing everything possible to his guitar short of reanimating it back into a tree.

        Then he had the video taken down from every site on the web, and because so many sites just embed links, it’s gone without a trace. Even Radiohead was asking him publicly to put it back up, and he never has.

        • didn’t he use to have a penis shaped guitar that would ejaculate?

        • mark f says:

          The best Prince story is the one with Carlos Boozer:

          Back in 2006, the Bulls star agreed to let the singer rent out his LA mansion. The only problem is that Prince made himself a little too at home.

          “Supposedly, Prince changed the front gate to the Prince sign, he changed the master bedroom to a hair salon, he changed the streaming blue waters that led to the front door to purple water, he knocked out walls, he changed the molding on top of the ceiling,” Boozer’s former Duke teammate and good friend Jay Williams told ESPN Radio. “Booz was livid.”

          Apparently, Boozer was so mad, he considered going over there and beating Prince up. Eventually, Boozer sued him.

          Strangely, though, Boozer sounded like he was fond of Prince when he recalled the incident yesterday.

          “Good dude, man. Great dude,” Boozer said. “I can’t go into detail with what happened, but he’s a great guy. Good tenant. Paid his bills on time. He’s a very gentle dude, very humble. Very big on family. I’m proud to have him as a friend.”

          Wait, what? Didn’t you want to beat him up for turning your mansion into the video for “Purple Rain?” What could inspire such a change of heart?

          Jay Williams explains.

          “Booz was like, ‘I was getting ready to go over there and beat this little man down.’ And dude was just like ‘Here, Boozer, here is a little check for about a million, it’ll take care of everything, get it back the way you want it.’ And Booz was like, ‘This little man is cool as hell.’”

        • MAJeff says:

          Here’s that 1983 performance of Purple Rain at First Avenue (yeah, I made sure to download it before it gets pulled)

      • randomworker says:

        I got a call from a friend who worked for Prince to be at First Ave early one evening in 1987 (I think it was). Doors locked at 9PM and Prince took the stage performing new material from Sign of the Times and some crowd favorites. Unbelievable. I’ve been to a lot of shows before and since but that one is tops.

    • Conservative Dipsticks says:

      That glyph thing to get out of his record deal was pretty brilliant too

      • DrS says:

        I love that nym fails cross machines now.

      • Jean-Michel says:

        Except it didn’t work. He got out of his contract in a more traditional, time-honored way: dusting off old, previously-unreleased tracks and releasing them in quick succession to burn off his contractual obligation. The only break he got was that WB let him go after six albums instead of the original seven, and even that wasn’t much of a break since he had to accept a reduced royalty.

  6. wjts says:

    To the extent that the halftime show is something of an advertisement for the performers, I suppose it’s not entirely crazy, merely mostly crazy. But if they’re asking for a cut of the post-Super Bowl tour ticket sales, then the next logical step is to ask Frito-Lay for a cut of the post-Super Bowl sales of New Zesty Ketchup Flavored Doritos. Or the pre-Super Bowl sales, come to think of it – would people be buying quite so many bags of chips and cases of beer that week if not for the Super Bowl?

    • Fearless Navigator of the New LGM Comment System says:

      Silly wjts. There’s ketchup flavored Doritos and spicy ketchup flavored Lays but no zesty ketchup Doritos.

    • Warren Terra says:

      To the extent that the halftime show is something of an advertisement for the performers, I suppose it’s not entirely crazy

      This is the part that scares me: I don’t think it’s crazy at all. I suspect the numbers will bear this out, that the SuperBowl shows have dramatically increased the earnings of their performers in the subsequent twelve months, especially those performers who had been in a career slump or even a career hiatus (and who therefore have a low baseline against which to measure the bump). I think this explains all the career-reviving has-beens who’ve performed at the Super Bowl, appearing cheaply and appealing to nostalgia, but mostly hoping to raise their profile and sell a few truckloads of “best of” compilations and tour tickets.

      Of course, just because this makes sense economically doesn’t make it good for the audience. If they’re soliciting $1 million from performers some people want to see , why not take $20 million to promote the Hansen Comeback Tour, after all? But I worry that it does add up, and that it therefore will happen.

      • royko says:

        I would actually be shocked if any SB performers have seen much of a post-SB bump. The exposure is huge, so you would think that must help, but I can’t think of a performer who seemed to benefit from it. I think a combo of weak shows (due to all the constraints put on them), already established artists, and a disinterested audience with a core demographic whose listening habits are already established have kept the SB from making a difference.

    • ThrottleJockey says:

      Its only crazy if they can’t get away with it… The thing is the only acts crazy enough to pay the NFL for the privilege of playing the Super Bowl are the acts millions of watchers don’t want to see…I can’t see any of those 3 paying for the privilege. Each one of them is bona fide platinum multiple times over.

      • wjts says:

        The thing is the only acts crazy enough to pay the NFL for the privilege of playing the Super Bowl are the acts millions of watchers don’t want to see…

        In principle, I could imagine a record company ponying up the money to get a new or newish artist to play the halftime show for the exposure. In practice, I don’t know how well that would work. And because I never watch the halftime show, I’d be willing to kick in a couple of bucks for the 1910 Fruitgum Company to play the show in a misguided and ineffectual act of protest.

        • drkrick says:

          The record company never pays for anything. Like all promotion, this would be charged back to the artist. If the record company is unusually ethical, the charge will be no more than the actual cost, but that wouldn’t be the way to bet.

          • postmodulator says:

            The lead singer of Wall of Voodoo tells a story of having some record company guy swing by their recording session to party and hang out and be one of the guys. He brought a six-pack and a couple of bags of chips.

            Six months later, they found the beer and the chips in their royalty statement.

            I think future historians of the failures of late capitalism will use the record industry as a case study. Never has a goose been so assiduously killed for the purpose of obtaining the golden eggs inside.

        • postmodulator says:

          Last night on Facebook we were joking about having a Kickstarter to get some outsider artist to play the show. In the cold light of day, this seems tacky, but an adventurous artist might be fun. So help support my Kickstarter to get Marc Ribot and Terje Rypdal to play the Super Bowl Halftime show.

  7. I saw an online poll requesting that Weird Al do it. I like that idea, I must confess.

  8. Gwen says:

    I’d point out that even though it’s gauche to do so, all they are doing is *asking*. As mama said, you can’t get what you don’t ask for.

    I mean, would it be so wrong if I asked LGM to share a bit of ad revenue with me because after all, everyone loves to read my enlightening comments?

    • Gwen says:

      If all the acts say “no” the NFL can either fold or can get an act who is so desperate for attention that they will pay.

      Of course, prisoner’s dilemma, etc.

  9. […] Eric Loomis wonders, it’s not that far from there to asking for a cut of their players’ promotional […]

  10. Linkmeister says:

    This the kind of thing a bar that loses money regularly asks of the bands it wants to hire for live music nights. “Think of the exposure, guys!”

    Horsefeathers. I hope all these acts tell the NFL to put it where the sun doesn’t shine.

  11. MAJeff says:

    Maybe Will.I.Am needs more exposure and they can get B.E.P.-in-a-box again.

  12. Shakezula says:

    This is really weird. Do any of those artists need additional exposure? This seems more appropriate for a band that is making a comeback although not if their lead singer sounds as beat as Roger Daltrey.

    I can’t see it working for an up and coming act because they wouldn’t have the money. And people seem to expect very popular acts.

  13. MAJeff says:

    One birthday performance for a Saudi prince could probably cover the costs for performing at the SuperBowl.

  14. M. Bouffant says:

    If the NFL can get Rihanna to pay then they can suspend her for a few games for smoking weed.

  15. MikeMikeMike says:

    Not surprising I suppose. The StarTribune recently ran a story about the NFL’s long list of “requests” for cities looking to host Super Bowl LII in 2018. Of course, why would we expect billionaire team owners should have to pay for things like Presidential suites at the Twin Cities’ top hotels? That’s for little people.

    • JMP says:

      If the poor billionaire owners have to pay for their own luxury hotel suites, next thing you know someone might actually start suggesting the teams pay for building their own stadiums instead of extorting the city to build it for them!

    • Look here you, how do you think they became billionaires?

    • drkrick says:

      There’s a conspiracy theory that one of the reasons the Washington NFL team wound up with Dan Snyder as an owner was punishment for the Cookes building what’s now FedEx Field at their own expense.

      • efgoldman says:

        punishment for the Cookes building what’s now FedEx Field at their own expense.

        Doesn’t wash. The Krafts did the same thing in Foxboro.

        • sleepyirv says:

          Wait till they try to sell the team…

        • drkrick says:

          I seem to remember the Krafts jerking around both MA and CT quite a bit to get something out of the Commonwealth in that deal. Was it just land and infrastructure?

          • efgoldman says:

            I seem to remember the Krafts jerking around both MA and CT quite a bit

            Before the Krafts bought the team, the Sullivans (original owners), the Remington shaver guy who’s name I don’t remember, and Orthwein (who sold to the Krafts), intermittently used the threat of moving the team to Providence or Hartford as leverage to get a publicly financed stadium. Since the Pats were a laughing stock for much of that time, and nobody knew that the blighted South Boston waterfront would explode as a development opportunity, the legislature basically told them to pound sand.
            The Krafts owned the land the old stadium sat on even before they bought the team. They also bought the big parcel next door (formerly a harness track or dog track, I don’t remember) so the land wasn’t a problem.
            hey got some minor infrastructure improvements on Route 1 and the access roads, and I think they got an easement from the town, but the land and building werre all privately financed. My understanding is all of the construction loans were paid off years ahead of time, and with the shopping mall they’ve installed, the whole thing is a gold mine – which, you’d think, would encourage other owners to do the same, rather than gypping states and municipalities.

  16. wengler says:

    The richer you get the more you get for free, or even less than free.

  17. royko says:

    It would never happen, but Gogol Bordello would rock the hell out of the Super Bowl.

    But really, Coldplay? Is the object to get me to doze off?

  18. Denverite says:

    You know the last Super Bowl was depressing when I don’t even have the heart to work the Broncos into a comment on this thread.

    (But they’re looking awfully good so far! Ryan Clady is back! Von Miller is high — er, back! Peyton Manning is looking even more middle-aged than before, with more paunch and less hair!)

    (Seriously seriously, the Thomases look FANTASTIC so far. I predict Julius Thomas will lead all TEs in receiving yards and touchdowns, and it won’t be particularly close.)

    • Erik Loomis says:

      But I thought your lock predictions of Denver domination were sure to come true!

      • Denverite says:

        You’re forgetting about the notable exception. We all have them.

        Mark my words about the Thomases. Julius has only played like 20-30 games EVER. He’s still learning how to play and is going to be a beast. DT is in a contract year and wants to get paid like a top three receiver (which he is, but the Broncos are playing hardball).

        I’m getting a distinct vibe that the Broncos are going to have a great regular season (like 13-3, with wins over both Seattle and SF), but then shit themselves in the playoffs. Probably against NE in bad weather.

        Question, though. I lucked into tickets for a couple of games. I paid face value ($85 per). I can sell them for $300 each. What are the privilege ramifications for having my wife take my daughter vs. selling them? (Assume she’s a western NYer and one of the games is the Bills game.)

  19. Manju says:

    Performing the Superbowl halftime show is a winning lottery ticket. Record sales go thru the roof, tickets skyrocket, etc. (Source: musicians I drink Bourban with).

    So this ain’t nothing like the intern thing. To the extent that it might be wrongheaded, I’m reminded of Campos’ Stringer Bell video: if you drop prices too low, consumer confidence in ur product will fall.

    SB1/2time is now a major status symbol. The NFL wants a cut of the $$ this status generates, since they conveyed it in the 1st place. But if they sell off the status, it looses its prestige. Its a catch-22.

    They gotta keep that shit under the table…like the academy awards.

  20. tsam says:

    I just hope whoever pays to play is as entertaining and brilliant as the Black Eyed Peas were.

  21. tsam says:

    I will go on record to say that Bruno Mars was fucking fantastic last year. That little dude brings it.


  22. joe from Lowell says:

    From the pout of view of the league’s customer base, I’m sort of pissed to hear that they’ll be picking their halftime show based on payola.

  23. Ken says:

    As long as it’s not Pharrell Williams with that damn “Happy” song.

    (ETA: It was OK once, but they won’t stop playing it.)

  24. jim, some guy in iowa says:

    the Mavericks doing their cover of “Dr Feelgood”… that’s what’s needed

  25. actor212 says:

    They used to call it “payola”

  26. […] The NFL is now retroactively applying its belief that musicians who perform at the Super Bowl should not only pay for the privilege, but should also pay the NFL for the money they make after the fact from the publicity: […]

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