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How Super Bowl Halftime Shows Sell Music: From MJ to Bruno Mars (1993-Present)

Until Michael Jackson's Super Bowl performance in 1993, the Super Bowl halftime show was more about marching bands and card stunts than headliner superstars.

Until Michael Jackson’s Super Bowl performance in 1993, the Super Bowl halftime show was more about marching bands and card stunts than headliner superstars.

Super Bowl 2015: Full Coverage of Concerts, Halftime + More

In 2015, the most-watched TV event in the world is a magnet for superstar talent eager to promote an upcoming album and tour. However, this year’s halftime performer, Katy Perry, has a different goal for the show. “There isn’t any selling point going up the day after,” she tells Billboard. “I’m just selling my music to the broadest, widest audience ever.”

A year ago, Bruno Mars took to the Super Bowl stage on February 2, 2014, and garnered the largest TV audience ever in Super Bowl history: 115.3 million viewers.

Super Bowl halftime performances of the past 20-plus years have spurred some impressive sales boosts, and Perry is sure to profit on Billboard’s charts. Apples-to-apples comparisons aren’t really possible over the years — many performers did not have a current album or tour to promote — but all have seen bumps. Here’s a look back at some of the biggest halftime show sales winners since 1993.

2014 – Bruno Mars – Feb. 2, 2014

Mars’ second album “Unorthodox Jukebox” climbed 7-3 on the Billboard 200 in the first full week after the show, selling 81,000 copies (up 92% in the week ending February 9). His first album, “Doo-Wops & Hooligans” just missed re-entering the top 10, as it glided 19-11 with 26,000 (up 58%).

Mars’ combined album sales for the week totaled 107,000 — up 82% compared to the previous week’s sum (59,000).

In total, Mars’ catalog of digital songs sold 389,000 for the week — up 32% compared to the previous week (295,000).

2013 – Beyonce – Feb. 3, 2013

In the week ending Feb. 10, 2013, the overall combined album sales of Beyonce and her group Destiny’s Child gained by 40% to 28,000. The largest-selling album of either act for the past week was Beyonce’s “4,” which moved 6,000 (up 59%).

In the week before the Super Bowl (ending Jan. 27), their combined album sales were just 7,000. A week later (ending Feb. 3), they moved 20,000.

Individually, Beyonce’s albums sold 15,000 in the week ending Feb. 10 (up 62% from 9,000) while Destiny’s Child’s moved 13,000 (up 21% from 11,000).

In terms of song download sales, Beyonce and Destiny’s Child sold a combined 280,000 downloads (up 68%) for the week ending Feb. 10. Comparatively, in the week ending Jan. 27, they sold 72,000. A week later, they jumped to 167,000.

The best-selling song by either for the week ending Feb. 10 was Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love” — which was performed in the halftime set. It sold 33,000 for a gain of 203%. The next four largest-selling Beyonce/Destiny’s Child songs for the Feb. 10 week were all by Beyonce: “Halo” (32,000; up 68%), “Single Ladies” (22,000; up 81%), “Love On Top” (18,000; up 94%) and “End of Time” (12,000; up 212%).

Splitting Beyonce’s and Destiny’s Child’s song catalogs apart, Beyonce’s songs sold 220,000 for the week ending Feb. 10 (up 80%) while Destiny’s Child moved 60,000 (up 36%).

2012 – Madonna – Feb. 5, 2012

Label sources said that 50,000 pre-orders were placed for Madonna’s “MDNA” album in its first three days of availability through the close of business on Feb. 5 (the day of the Super Bowl). That same week, her new single moved 115,000 downloads while her catalog of older albums saw a 410% surge in sales (going from 5,000 to 26,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan).

A week later, after the show had a full week’s worth of impact, “Luvin'” sold a further 165,000 downloads (up 44%), while the rest of her songs moved a combined 166,000 (up from 94,000 the previous week).

2011 – The Black Eyed Peas – Feb. 6, 2011

The quartet’s mega-medley — which included guest turns from Slash and Usher — helped prompt sales gains for a number of the Peas’ songs and albums. Its then-current album, “The Beginning,” saw a 35% sales gain in the week ending Feb. 6, jumping to 19,000 sold. The next week, it sold a further 31,000 (up 61%). The act’s biggest selling song in either week was “The Time (Dirty Bit)” — which was a then-current release, selling 153,000 the week ending Feb. 13 (up 46%).

“The Time (Dirty Bit)” was one of three Peas songs to shift more than 50,000 in the week after the Super Bowl.

2010 – The Who – Feb. 7, 2010

The Who was the most recent classic rock act to grace the Super Bowl halftime stage, playing a five-song set at the 2010 show. With no new album to promote, the act saw the biggest sales returns for its “Greatest Hits” album. In the week ending Feb. 7, its sales rose to 8,000 (up 102%) while the following week, they jumped to 14,000 (up 84%).

2009 – Bruce Springsteen – Feb. 1, 2009

Bruce Springsteen used the halftime show to promote his brand new studio effort, “Working On a Dream,” which was released earlier in the week (Jan. 27). The album sold 224,000 through the week ending Feb. 1, easily landing a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 chart.

The next week, “Dream” fell to the No. 2 slot with 102,000 — down by only 55%, a less weighty drop than what his last album, “Magic,” experienced in its second week. “Magic” premiered with 335,000 and then fell by 60% in its sophomore frame. One figures that “Dream’s” second-week decline was eased because of consumers reacting to his Super Bowl performance (many of whom probably didn’t know the Boss had a new album out).

2008 – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Feb. 3, 2008

The band’s catalog album “Greatest Hits” took a 196% sales jump in the week ending Feb. 10, shifting 33,000 copies. Outside of the always-busy Christmas shopping season, that was the biggest sales week for any catalog album since 2004. Additionally, “Petty’s Anthology: Through the Years” moved 7,000 the week following the Super Bowl (up 240%). It was the album’s best sales week since December 2000.

The Super Bowl’s impact was also felt in Petty’s digital track downloads. Key hits like “Free Fallin’,” “American Girl,” “I Won’t Back Down” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream” all saw a weekly gain of more than 150% in downloads.

2007 – Prince – Feb. 4, 2007

The Purple One’s catalog of albums more than doubled in sales in the week after his halftime performance, at 31,000, up from 14,000 the prior week. Similarly, digital downloads of all his available songs almost doubled, with SoundScan posting a total of 102,000 paid track downloads for Prince, compared to 59,000 the week before the championship game.

2006 – The Rolling Stones – Feb. 5, 2006

The veteran rockers took the Super Bowl stage five months after its most recent studio album, “A Bigger Bang,” was released in September 2005. Interestingly, in the week ending Feb. 5, the album only saw a tiny 9% increase (moving from just 4,000 to 5,000). A week later, it improved slightly, selling 6,000 (up 34%).

Also of note: None of the band’s assorted greatest hits collections saw a significant gain. That includes hits successful “Forty Licks” compilation released in 2002 and “Jump Back: The Best of the Rolling Stones – ’71-’93.”

One could argue that the Stones’ Super Bowl gig was an opportunity to sell concert tickets — not albums. The group was in the midst of its record-breaking “A Bigger Bang” tour, which launched on Aug. 10, 2005. The trek continued through its final date, Aug. 26, 2007, at London’s O2 Arena. At its conclusion, it was the highest-grossing tour of all time, as reported to Billboard Boxscore, having taken in $558 million. (It is now the No. 2 tour of all time, behind U2’s 360 Tour, which grossed $736 million in 2009-2011.)

2005 – Paul McCartney – Feb. 6, 2005

At the time of his performance, Sir Paul’s most recent album was the 2002 live set “Back In the U.S. Live 2002.” In the week ending Feb. 13, it moved just 2,000 copies — up a mighty 542% in sales. However, as McCartney’s catalog hadn’t been released digitally at that point, his sales impact was muted. It was unlikely that brick-and-mortar retailers had much stock on hand of “Back In the U.S. Live 2002,” so its sales weren’t going to be that huge.

Two of McCartney’s greatest hits sets more than doubled in the week ending Feb. 13: “All the Best” sold 2,000 (up 246%) and “Wingspan: Hits and History” moved 4,000 (up 161%).

Finally, the Beatles’ mega-selling hits album “1” showed 72% growth that week, selling 17,000.

2004 – Janet Jackson, Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock and Justin Timberlake – Feb. 1, 2004

The last MTV-produced halftime show featured an eight-song performance from an array of then-hot stars — but, of course, the one performer everyone remembers was Janet Jackson. The diva performed three songs — “All For You,” “Rhythm Nation” and “Rock Your Body.” On the latter, she was joined by Justin Timberlake — and the infamous “wardrobe malfunction.”

Despite, or maybe because of, controversy generated by their halftime appearance, sales for three of Jackson’s albums more than doubled in the week after the show, while Timberlake’s “Justified” increased 160%.

2003 – Shania Twain, No Doubt, Sting – Jan. 26, 2003

Twain’s current album “Up” led the Super Bowl field, selling 67,000 (up 41%) in the week after the show (ending Feb. 2). No Doubt’s most recent release, 2001’s “Rock Steady,” moved 12,000 (up 23%) and Sting’s “The Very Best of Sting & the Police” shifted 4,000 (up 39%).

2002 and earlier:

In 2002, in the week after the Feb. 3 show, performers U2 saw sales for three of the band’s key albums more than double (“All That You Can’t Leave Behind,” up 142%; “Best of 1980-1990,” up 154%; “The Joshua Tree,: up 144%) .

In 2001 (Jan. 28), the all-star combo of Aerosmith, ‘N Sync, Britney Spears, Nelly and Mary J. Blige provided some sales punch. Aerosmith was in promotion mode, hyping the upcoming March 6 release of its album “Just Push Play” by performing its lead single “Jaded.” As for the others, in the week ending Feb. 4, ‘N Sync’s current release “No Strings Attached” moved 46,000 (up 23%), Spears’ “Oops! . . . I Did It Again” shifted 39,000 (up 4%) and Nelly’s “Country Grammar” sold 76,000 (up 26%). Blige did not have a current release at the time.

2001 arguably marked a shift in how the halftime show was programmed and produced. While Michael Jackson did change the game in 1993 with his solo headlining turn, it wasn’t until 2001 did the Super Bowl truly begin embracing current superstars.

Between 1997 and 2000, the show housed performances from a motley crew of folks ranging from Boyz II Men and Chaka Khan to Queen Latifah and ZZ Top. All four shows were ensemble affairs, with the 1998 show (a tribute to Motown’s 40th anniversary), featuring no less than five acts. Yet, some of those acts (like Marta Reeves and Smokey Robinson) hadn’t had a major pop hit in many years.

In 1996, Diana Ross was the show’s solo performer, treating the audience to a medley of her hits — both solo and with her former group, the Supremes. She closed the show with two new recordings, a cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and an original tune, “Take Me Higher.” The two songs were lifted from her then-current “Take Me Higher” album, which sold 3,000 the week after the show (up 74%).

In 1994, country stars Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt and the Judds played, while the next year, Patti Labelle, Teddy Pendergrass and Tony Bennett were among the guests. Neither show caused a huge surge in sales for any of the the acts.

We finally arrive at Jackson’s star turn in 1993. During the Jan. 31 show, he played three songs from his 1991 album “Dangerous,” as well as the classic 1982 single “Billie Jean.”

Sales of “Dangerous” shot up dramatically in the week of the show as well in the following weeks. In the week ending Jan. 31, it moved 21,000 (up 83%) for its best sales week outside of the Christmas season since July the previous year. In turn, the album vaulted from No. 88 to No. 41 on the Billboard 200 chart, the set’s highest rank since June of the previous year. The next week, “Dangerous” climbed to No. 26 with 29,000 (up 40%) and then sold in excess of 50,000 for the next six straight weeks.