Super Bowl Halftime Shows Cost Millions. Who’s Paying?

The Weeknd
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for TW

The Weeknd speaks during the Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show Press Conference at Tampa Convention Center on Feb. 4, 2021 in Tampa.

"The NFL allows you a production budget -- it's almost never enough to satisfy what the actual production costs are,” says Lou Taylor, a veteran business manager.

The Weeknd spent $7 million of his own money on production costs for his Super Bowl halftime show, his manager Wassim "Sal" Slaiby told Billboard last week. That’s a lot.

"Whoa on The Weeknd!!!" one prominent artist rep said in an email.

Management company Roc Nation, one of the Super Bowl’s executive producers, will oversee the expenses to "make this halftime show be what he envisioned," Slaiby said in the story. But in general for Super Bowl performances, according to top managers and major-label sources, labels and sponsors offset some of the costs, and the amounts vary from year to year.

"The NFL allows you a production budget -- it's almost never enough to satisfy what the actual production costs are. However, usually the label will step in and provide the shortfall," says Lou Taylor, a veteran business manager who works with previous halftime-show performers Jennifer Lopez, Travis Scott and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler. "That seems like an extravagant number for [The Weeknd] to be out of pocket, unless the label's going to participate."

When Bruce Springsteen performed the Super Bowl in 2009, the NFL gave him a $1 million production budget -- which was more than enough for his relatively barebones set (although the Boss insisted on fireworks). NFL reps had visited Jon Landau, Springsteen’s manager, in person and made an elaborate pitch. (An NFL spokesperson wouldn't comment on Super Bowl finances.)

"They gave me 10 minutes worth of bullet points about how big the Super Bowl is, it's the No. 1 show on Jupiter and Mars, it's No. 1 with women, it's No. 1 with people who don't brush their teeth," he says. "There's $1 billion transacted -- I remember them saying that."

Afterwards, Landau told them: "I have one question: What do you get paid to be part of the biggest show in the history of the universe? What does the artist get?"

Nothing, he was told, beyond the production budget.

"Earnings for the show for Bruce and the band: zero," he says. "But it was beautifully produced, Bruce and the band were sensational and we loved it. Until you're there, you can't comprehend how many people work on that show."

So if artists aren’t getting paid, why do it? “Exposure,” says a major-label source. “Obviously.”

The Weeknd Says No 'Special Guests' for Super Bowl Performance | Billboard News

Plus, there are more direct financial benefits. Springsteen put most of his tour on sale the morning after the Super Bowl -- others have done the same -- and it wound up grossing $156 million, the year's third-best-selling tour, according to Billboard Boxscore. After last year's halftime show, Shakira's Spotify tracks increased by 230% compared to the previous week, and Jennifer Lopez's music went up by 335%, the streaming service reported.

While artists had to cancel all tours last year due to the pandemic, Super Bowl benefits remain worth the cost. Last year's viewership was nearly 100 million, and ad revenues were $450 million. "In the U.S., there's not a bigger look than the halftime show at the Super Bowl," Taylor says. "The benefit is enormous. You've got eyes on you."