How Do Songwriters Get Paid For Super Bowl Halftime Performances?

Getting booked to perform during the Super Bowl Halftime Show is regarded as one of the most monumental milestones a performing artist can have in their career. The performance takes place on one of the world’s largest stages. However, even with such a massive audience, the performing artists during the Super Bowl’s halftime show are not paid for the performance. Although, Forbes reports that in recent years, halftime performers have experienced double and triple digit percentage spikes in the consumption of their music after the Super Bowl.

With the performing artists benefiting from the publicity that performing at the Super Bowl brings, what isn’t explored enough is how songwriters - the people who wrote the songs being performed - get paid.

Cue Sheets:

In short, songwriters whose works are performed during a high profile TV performance like the Super Bowl or GRAMMY’s, are paid by the entity that’s licensing the song. In the most common scenarios, the television networks are paying for the license, and their payment is distributed to songwriters by each songwriter’s affiliated PRO. The networks know in advance which songs will be performed, and submit a cue sheet listing those songs, to the collection societies.

Licensing Agreement:

Based on the licensing agreement between the TV broadcaster, such as FOX or ABC, and your performance rights organization, the calculated royalty is then paid out to each rights holder based on the splits of the song, also in relation to the duration of the song in the performance. If a songwriter’s song is performed in its full duration, their royalty will be greater than a songwriter whose song is only performed for 20 seconds. 

In addition to the licensing agreement between the TV network and your PRO, the TV network is also required to secure a sync (synchronization) license with the music publisher who administers the musical composition being performed during the halftime show. The TV network will pay a sync fee to the music publisher, who will then payout the appropriate allocations of the sync licensing fee to the songwriter(s) based on the terms of their contract. 

TV Timeslots:

TV performance payments are based around the time slot, (such as primetime) instead of overall viewership. In other words, even though the Super Bowl has one of the biggest audiences in television, that doesn’t play a factor in the amount of money you would make from your song being performed during the Super Bowl. What does play a factor, is the time in which the Super Bowl airs since primetime audiences are larger than off-hours.

Make Sure You’re Prepared To Collect Should The Super Bowl Come Calling:

  1. Become a member of your home collection society, like ASCAP or BMI in the US.
  2. With your songs properly registered, the collection society will identify you as the appropriate songwriter to pay for the performance. 
  3. Once your PRO receives the licensing fee from the TV network, they will pay you according to the song splits and duration of the performance.
  4. This is another reminder to why you should always register your songs as soon as possible - you wouldn’t want to miss out on any payments that are owed to you.

Similar to how performing artists don’t get paid to perform at the Super Bowl, songwriters can’t expect to make a lot of money directly from TV performances. Where they can hope to see an increase in revenue is the mechanical royalties generated from music streaming after the performance.

Super Bowl LIV 2020 is on Sunday, February 2nd in Miami.

It will kick off at 6:30 PM EST on Fox.

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