NFL, VH1 Prepping Six Pre-Super Bowl Concerts (Exclusive)

The following excerpt is from Billboard magazine's special Sports & Music Package which examines how music can play a larger role in the nearly $14 billion brands will this year spend on sports. This special section includes "The Big Scores," a story on music's role in this summer's World Cup; NBC's plan to use music extensively in its Winter Olympic Games coverage; and a special Billboard Sports & Music Roundtable with CAA's Tom Worcester, Columbia Records Agency's Brian Nolan, ESPN's Kevin Wilson, NFL's Sarah Moll, Coca-Cola's Joe Belliotti and GMR Marketing's Casey Gartland. You can pick-up this issue here. Subscribe to Billboard here.

With Super Bowl XLVIII coming to New Jersey's MetLife Stadium, the biggest sporting event of the year will effectively be in New York's backyard. That's why music events around next year’s Super Bowl will reach a record volume of activity. Leading the pack will be the National Football League and VH1, who've teamed to host six concerts in the week leading up to the big game — one for each of New York City’s five boroughs, plus a show in New Jersey on the eve of the Super Bowl’s kickoff. The VH1 Super Bowl Blitz will start Jan. 27 in Queens, followed by stops in The Bronx (Jan. 28), Brooklyn (Jan. 29), Manhattan (Jan. 30), Staten Island (Jan. 31) and Jersey (Feb. 1).

Though VH1 is still in the process of booking talent, previous Super Bowl shows arranged and aired by the network have included Maroon 5, Rihanna, Mary J. Blige and Train. The New York-area shows will all be indoors (after all, the Farmer’s Almanac is calling for a “cold, wet and white” East Coast winter in 2014), and will be “significant underplays” (i.e. playing smaller venues than artists normally would) for each of the acts, says Rick Krim, the network’s exec VP-talent and music programming.


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Each show will air live at 11 p.m. ET, while tickets will be free and given away in the days leading up to each show – if not day-of in some instances. “Based on the artists we’re talking to and the fact that these aren’t giant venues, you could announced a show the day it happened and people will want to see it,” Krim says. “There’s gonna be a lot of people in town that week, and we don’t want to be left out.”

That feeling is shared by several official NFL sponsors as well, including Citi and Anheuser-Busch, each of whom are prepping major music activations during Super Bowl Week. A-B, for example, is prepping an expanded version of its Bud Light Hotel, at a to-be-determined NYC location. “Bud Light Hotel has allowed us to break through the clutter during Super Bowl Week by fusing sports and music to create one of the most popular and memorable destinations for entertainment,” says Bud Light VP Rob McCarthy. “With the game taking place in New York City next year, we’re planning to raise the bar to a new level on what beer drinkers can and should expect from Bud Light.”

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And aside from the Halftime Show, which despite sponsorship from Pepsi is an unpaid gig for artists, the top concert bookings around the Super Bowl can command fees in the low-to-mid-seven figure range — much like Justin Timberlake’s comeback concert for DirecTV the night before Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans this past January.

Other major events like NBA’s Halftime shows, the NCAA’s Big Dance and MLB All-Star Week can command similarly large booking fees and even help route major acts’ tours. “The touring business is dependent on ticket sales, and these are guaranteed gigs – so once in awhile they’ll take precedent,” says one top sports and music talent booker. “Sometimes, we’ll talk to talent about not charging as much as they normally do, because they like to do it, it’s a good look reaching a young or college audience, and it can be a fun show.”