Your favorite band is never going to play the halftime show at the Super Bowl. There, I said it.
I realize you can give me a hundred reasons why you think they should, but you are forgetting the most important part of the halftime reality: You are not the target audience.
During my time as a touring musician, I had the opportunity to play several Super Bowl and NFL-related events, from corporate parties all the way to the televised Pre Game concert. During that time I had the opportunity to learn about the halftime decision-making process from the actual decision-makers and I was stunned by the simplicity of it all.
Ask yourself a question: “Would you watch the Super Bowl without any special music?” If the answer is yes, you are not in the target audience for the show. In fact, if the majority of the demographic you are included in would watch the Super Bowl no matter what, you aren’t important to halftime decision makers. The fact is, the show is an attempt to grow the audience by getting non-traditional fans engaged in the game.
Now, many of you will point to recent performances from iconic bands like the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney. Yes, there was a reactionary period when fear of a wardrobe malfunction drove musical decision-making. That period ended, however, when the league began legally protecting itself.
See, what many people don’t realize is that before you ever step on stage for an NFL sanctioned TV performance, you now have to sign dozens of legal documents admitting your personal and financial liability for anything that happens while you are performing. The fines are, quite literally, in the millions of dollars for doing anything that isn’t pre-approved by the league or violates FCC standards. All music, wardrobe and choreography must be approved by dozens of league officials before you can even step foot on their stage.
And that doesn’t even take in to account the business contracts that are a factor in the league’s process. Taylor Swift is a perfect example. Tay-Tay is one of the biggest stars in the world, obviously, and her fans would be a massive ratings win for the league if she were to perform at halftime. However, the BUSINESS side of the music business won’t allow it. Why? She has spent her career doing advertisements for Coke — and Pepsi sponsors the halftime show. It’s not even about existing ads; it’s about being defined as a star with a defining star endorsement of a company that doesn’t give the NFL millions of dollars.
The other thing to remember is that the location of the Super Bowl is irrelevant. The event is a celebration of the NFL, not the host city. So, while a city can choose to put on concerts of their own using nationally recognized talent that is from their city, it is meaningless to the NFL. Detroit didn’t have a Motown halftime show; Metallica didn’t play San Francisco; a band from Houston is meaningless to Super Bowl 51.
It’s simple. Ask yourself what act has a broad enough range of music to have been heard by mothers and daughters that are fans of music. Ask yourself who has music playing on adult contemporary radio stations AND pop stations. If you went to see a concert today, would multiple generations of women be enjoying the show equally? Those are the only acts the NFL wants to bring in to host the Super Bowl Halftime performance. Sure, a Coldplay can sneak in for international flare, but that was Bruno Mars and Beyonce’s night. Yes, the Red Hot Chili Peppers can do their thing, but only if Bruno allows it. That’s the world of the halftime performance.
Your best hope to see the band you love is to hope that a modern pop act wants to bring them on for fun. Unless that happens, you will always see Super Bowl Halftime Shows full of acts you don’t like, and the league wouldn’t have it any other way.