NFL Asks Adele to Play the Super Bowl Halftime Show for Free…

The NFL routinely gets superstar musicians to play the Super Bowl Halftime Show for free.  That didn’t work with Adele.

Updated, Monday, August 15th, 8:30 am PT: The NFL has now responded, saying they never extended a ‘formal offer’ to Adele, while not denying that conversations may have taken place (see below).  The NFL has not responded to issues surrounding non-payment of artists.  

Adele has now flat-out rejected an offer to play the upcoming NFL Super Bowl Halftime for free, a development that could force the league to revisit its long-held compensation policy towards performing artists.  The rejection, told by Adele to fans at a recent concert, follows controversy over the NFL’s policies of not only not paying artists, but even asking artists to pay for the halftime slot.

Whether those aggressive demands were placed on Adele is unclear, though a pair of sources involved in high-profile concert bookings told DMN over the weekend that the NFL has not changed its policy of not paying artists.  That decision is based on the unrivaled viewership the Super Bowl draws, with brands paying multi-millions of dollars for a simple 30-second advertising slot.

“…but I said no.”

Adele was politic in her rejection, mostly pointing to artistic and performance incongruities without mentioning compensation issues.  “First of all, I’m not doing the Super Bowl,” Adele told an audience during the show. “I mean, come on, that show is not about music. And I don’t really — I can’t dance or anything like that. They were very kind, they did ask me, but I said no.”

Adele, one of the top-grossing acts along superstars like Taylor Swift, Beyonce, the Rolling Stones, and Coldplay, can easily fetch more than $1 million per show.  But the National Football League has had little trouble attracting starts like Beyonce, Bruno Mars, Coldplay, and Katy Perry to perform in recent years, while even having the chutzpah to ask for upfront fees or a demand for downstream revenues resulting from halftime performances.

That bombshell was dropped by the Wall Street Journal’s Hannah Karp back in 2014, who pointed to demands by the NFL for upfront fees or a piece of resulting, downstream revenues.  “The National Football League doesn’t usually pay the act that performs at halftime during the Super Bowl,” the Journal reported.  “But in a twist this year, the league has asked artists under consideration for the high-profile gig to pay to play, according to people familiar with the matter.”

The report further outlined a complex pay-to-play arrangement in which artists funnel a portion of their Super Bowl-created earnings back to the NFL.  “While notifying the artists’ camps of their candidacy, league representatives also asked at least some of the acts if they would be willing to contribute a portion of their post-Super Bowl tour income to the league, or if they would make some other type of financial contribution, in exchange for the halftime gig,” the Journal continued.

The NFL has not responded to details about their payments (or lack thereof) to artists.  But early Monday, the NFL did deny that any offer was made to Adele:

“The NFL and Pepsi are big fans of Adele,” the League dated.  “We have had conversations with several artists about the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show. However, we have not at this point extended a formal offer to Adele or anyone else. We are focused on putting together a fantastic show for Houston and we look forward to revealing that in good time.”

Other artists are likely to play ball, especially with Halftime Show viewership now surpassing 115 million viewers.  That creates a massive bounce for participating artists and millions in ‘free exposure,’ with everything from iTunes downloads to Spotify streams to physical album sales booming.   Other areas, like concert performances and even advertising deals, may also benefit, though the overall lift hasn’t been quantified.  Perhaps a safe estimate is that an artist would net millions from the performance.

‘Safer Than Beyonce…’

The appeal to Adele comes after a rocky performance at last year’s Super Bowl 50, one that featured Coldplay, Bruno Mars, and a controversial Beyonce.  The activist singer staged a Black Panther-inspired choreography, one that arrived at an extremely sensitive time for race relations in the US.  Police unions and departments nationwide immediately protested the performance, while major brands — always allergic to controversy — likely harbored reservations over the Black Power motif.

Those tensions have only intensified since Beyonce’s performance, with Americans seemingly more divided on the issue.

Enter Adele, who carries broad, global appeal without controversial social protest, may have been viewed as a safer choice.  Now, it’s on to the NFL’s second choices, with potentially sticky negotiations ahead.


Top image is a mash-up of the Super Bowl XLI logo (fair use) and cut-up $100 bill image by Tax Credits (CC by 2.0).


9 Responses

  1. Versus

    Just say no to non-paying gigs.*

    (Certain exceptions noted, like a worthy charity event, or your best friend’s wedding)

  2. Sakis Gouzonis

    I think NFL should contact independent artists only. Major label artists are unnecessary. They ask for too much money, but they have very little talent (if any).

  3. danwriter

    NFL Asks Adele to Play the Super Bowl Halftime Show for Free…

    This is the epitome of false equivalency. Adele never mentions the lack of payment as a reason for turning down the halftime gig. As you write and she says, “…mostly pointing to artistic and performance incongruities without mentioning compensation issues. ‘I mean, come on, that show is not about music. And I don’t really — I can’t dance or anything like that.'”

    …And all it’s established NFL custom, whether anyone likes it or not, to not pay performers. So how does Adele’s declining the show have to do with not being paid for it?

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Well, as Troy Ave. nicely raps: “It’s all about the motherf–kin’ money”

  4. Know Too Much Grammy Voter and Artist Manager

    Well it is finally out that now the SuperBowl costs money to play. Fact is so do the Grammys, CMTs, Billboards, MTVs, they are all bowling banquets with trophies paid for by the participating artists that pay outrageous production fees to be on. Next fact is that SuperBowl bounce is no longer there as people leave the stadium and home to use the restroom, stuff their faces and other things paying little or no attention to the halftime show. I am the business for years, the public has no idea all these award shows and events are setup strictly to raise money from advertisers and the acts. That Grammy is paid for they just don’t tell anyone wink, wink that it is all a carnival show made for TV. Adele is too smart, her label is smart, they do not need the SB and more artists will be saying Hell NO, and OH No Thanks for the RNR Hall of Fame either all that costs the act money……