Why Bruno Mars Didn't Get Paid for his Super Bowl Halftime Performance

Following his halftime performance, Bruno Mars' sales are up and, as always, the record companies win.

Feb 6, 2014 at 10:40AM

Super Bowl Sunday came and went, but people are still talking about pop star Bruno Mars. Why? Because he took center stage during the halftime show, reaching an audience upwards of 100 million, and gained exposure to people entirely outside of his demographic. And yet, according to Time.com, the singer didn't receive a single penny for his performance. 

What gives? 


Source: CNN

This is actually nothing new. No one's ever been paid for the halftime show. Not Michael Jackson. Not Paul McCartney. And though Mars got 12 uninterrupted minutes in front of the largest U.S. audience anyone is ever likely to get (save for a few awkward moments with the Red Hot Chili Peppers — what was that about?), the whole thing smells of the same excuse given to artists over and over again. "Do it for the exposure, kid." Or, "Don't you know art isn't worth money?" You'd think with millions of dollars being spent on ads, the NFL could afford to shell out something to halftime performers. 

Though the whole idea of insisting an artist work for free might not pass the sniff test, this might be one of the few occasions where "exposure" actually translates to moola. In fact, there's no "might" about it. Time and time again, in Super Bowl after Super Bowl, halftime performers have seen a significant uptick in sales in the days following the game. 

Last year, Beyonce brought in 104 million viewers and saw a 40% increase in sales in the week following the Super Bowl. The year before, Madonna performed for an audience of 112.5 million viewers and 10 of her digital hits saw a sales increase of 1,700%, collectively. 

This isn't a recent phenomenon, either. In fact, since halftime shows with major musical acts have been a thing, sales for the artists have increased. Take for instance The Who. The iconic rock band performed in 2010 and their Greatest Hits album saw a 50% increase in sales as a result. 

Going all the way back to 1993 when Michael Jackson dominated the halftime stage, his album Dangerous saw a sales increase of 83%. And in 1996, Diana Ross experienced a 74% sales increase after her performance. We could go on, but you get the idea. A chance at performing during the Super Bowl means big bucks for the record companies behind these artists. 

So, how did Bruno Mars fair? He did well. Really well. Not only did he manage to pull in 115.3 million viewers to make his the most watched Super Bowl halftime show ever, the performance also elevated his album sales 164%. His latest, Unorthodox Jukebox, claimed the top spot on the iTunes Top Albums chart with his debut album bumping up to the No. 3 spot and remix versions of those two albums sitting pretty at positions 8 and 17.

Individual tracks are doing great, too, with his hit "Locked Out of Heaven" claiming the sixth spot on the iTunes Top Songs chart and "Just the Way Your Are" at No. 7. According to Mashable, the singer's ticket sales for his "Moonshine Jungle World Tour" skyrocketed as well. 

Bruno Mars is definitely one of the most contemporary choices the NFL has made, but it definitely seems to have been a smart move. Viewership was up -- despite the fact the game was hardly a nail-biter -- and record sales went through the roof. Mars' label, Atlantic Records, and rivals in the industry are likely already plotting to get their acts on stage for next year's big game.

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4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

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Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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