This year is a bit different type of Super Bowl—what with the Taylor Swift of it all—but in years prior, some tuned in for the game, some tuned in for the commercials, but many tuned in for the halftime show. Performers like Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Prince, Madonna, Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Justin Timberlake have headlined the show in the past, each getting about 12 to 15 minutes of airtime. The Super Bowl halftime show has even become a headline-making event of its own over the years, from Janet Jackson’s 2004 wardrobe malfunction to Rihanna’s announcement of her second pregnancy last year; Jennifer Lopez even made a documentary, Halftime, about her Super Bowl performance alongside Shakira. USA Today reports that the halftime show “sometimes attracts more eyeballs than the actual championship game, consistently drawing more than 100 million viewers.”
This year it’s Usher’s turn, and in preparation for the big night tonight—as many Super Bowl halftime headliners do—he released a new album, Coming Home, on Friday, and announced a North American tour to kick off in August, where he promised to play hits from across his 30-year career. The USHER: Past Present Future tour follows the close of his Las Vegas residency this past December. Of the Super Bowl halftime show, Usher said “This is the most grand stage to ever play on. It’s the honor of a lifetime to finally check a Super Bowl performance off my bucket list.”
The new album and forthcoming tour are obviously lucrative ventures, but you might be surprised to learn that Super Bowl halftime performers don’t get paid to play the show—well, at least not what they usually make. They only make union scale for the performance, USA Today reports, “a fraction of the six- and seven-figure sums” compared to what they typically earn, Forbes writes.
In a statement to The Independent in February of last year, the NFL said it “covers all costs associated with the show and does pay the halftime performers’ union scale.” Forbes reports that an elaborate production like the halftime show we’ll see tonight costs the League up to $10 million; performers sometimes even use their own money to add to the show, like The Weeknd, who reportedly spent $7 million out of pocket for his performance in 2021.
Though they’re not paid the millions they may be used to, performers make up for it in other ways, namely exposure. In addition to many tying a new album, tour, or, in Usher’s case, both to their performance, sales of pre-existing material often resurges after being shown on the world’s biggest stage. Case in point? Last year, halftime show headliner Rihanna’s Spotify streams went up 349 percent, while “B—ch Better Have My Money,” the opening song of her performance, saw a spike of 1,796 percent, according to USA Today.
“In short, it’s totally worth it,” the outlet writes.