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Next time Renee sings the Superbowl, she’ll have to pay for it

September 2, 2014 by norman lebrecht

13 comments.


In a textbook case of capitalism max, the National Football League is telling half-time performers they won’t get paid. On the contrary, they’ll have to pay for the privilege.

“One way to think about it is to remember that companies pay $4 million for 30 seconds of exposure during the Super Bowl,” says Daniel Lin, an economist at American University. “It doesn’t seem unreasonable that musicians would pay for something that others are already willing to pay millions for.” 

Land of the free, where nothing comes for free.

renee fleming inauguration


Comments (13)

  1. Walter says:

    This story is revolting. Americans with their “pay to play” system is an abomination, an insult to any intelligent, rational, humane, thinking person, a place where meritocracy has little, if any, value. Yet, as usual, they have no shame, nor embarrassment at such attitudes or policies. The damage this does to the music world is minimal, but this same “pay to play” mentality permeates their political system as well, meaning that if you want to become an ambassador, you pay. The more you pay, the bigger the ambassadorial post. Want to see how even an idiot can reach the stages of being nominated for a U.S. ambassador’s post in Norway by giving $850,000 to the “Party” in ‘The Land of the ‘Free’ ‘? Watch this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eNniomuL3w

    1. Greg from SF says:

      To Walter 3:48 –

      As an American, I deeply resent you calling us all out on the NFL’s decision to charge performing artists for playing at the Super Bowl.

      “Americans with their pay-to-play system”, is it?

      Well, listen up:

      I am an American, and I personally loathe the NFL. I am ashamed of this action, and many other of their actions, but I’m ashamed for them, not for myself. In no way have I, or anyone else I am personally acquainted with, ever aligned myself with the gross and obscene financial, political, and moral policies of professional sports in the U.S.

      As an intelligent, rational, humane, thinking person, as you put it, I feel just fine about who I am and where I stand…..

      How would you feel, Wally, if when the excesses and scandals and blatant cheating in football (non-American football, that is – soccer to us) were being discussed, the BRITISH people, or the GERMAN people, or the BRASILIAN people were singled out and criticized, rather than the real culprits? (Hello, FIFA! Stand up and be recognized, you crooks!)

      And, believe me, Wally boy, I don’t like American politics either. Corruption abounds in D.C. I know it and you know it. But are the politics of your own country – whatever country it may be – so lily-white and simon-pure that you can call out the U.S.? Money buys votes and influence and power in every country. EVERY country. WORLD-WIDE. That’s the fact, Jack. If you don’t get that, matey, then you haven’t been paying attention.

      You had better look into the mirror, Wally. What you see, if you look closely enough, might surprise you.

      1. Edith Portman says:

        It is, sadly, with an attitude like this response above to the previous posting, that the U.S. will never be able to reform itself and more importantly, reflect on itself, and will remain outside of ethical world norms. Yes, most countries do have some levels of corruption, but such blatant and obscene positions around paying money in order to be heard and participate is an anathema to any democratic system. It is totally anti-democratic. Here it is suggested that one must pay for the honour of singing the national anthem at a sporting event of national importance and the first comment, by Walter, righty expressed astonishment and outrage that this could be possible in a supposed “democratic” society. He then goes on to show that this same “pay to play” system is endemic throughout the U.S. and rightfully concludes the same, i.e. ambassadors named to posts not on merit, but on how much money they contributed. Yet, the comment above makes it appear that this appalling modus operandi is limited to the NFL (football federation). Sadly, it isn’t, as the first commenter tried to point out. Americans should face up to the reality and either take ownership of their weird system, or then join the vast international majority, who are horrified by such things and try to change it. Simply calling names and insulting a person for their opinion of something that the vast majority of the civilised world would find equally appalling, is not the right approach and only undermines the U.S. approach to dealing with disagreement yet even more.

        1. Greg from SF says:

          OK, Edith, I get it…..

          According to you, with an attitude like mine “the U.S. will never be able to reform itself and more importantly, reflect on itself, and will remain outside of ethical world norms”.

          On behalf of Americans everywhere, I would like to thank you so much for your doubtless well-informed and completely unbiased and clear-headed statement about what the United States’ future will be, vis-a-vis what you yourself perceive to be “ethical world norms”.

          Now, I’d like to clear up a few things, things that seem to have escaped you in your apparently hasty reading of my reply to Wallace’s post, the message of which you so obviously did not comprehend.

          You stated that “the comment above (i.e., my reply) makes it appear that this appalling modus operandi is limited to the NFL (football federation).”

          What I actually wrote was, and I quote myself: “In no way have I, or anyone else I am personally acquainted with, ever aligned myself with the gross and obscene financial, political, and moral policies of professional sports in the U.S.” Note that I did not limit myself in this sentence to merely the NFL; I called out all professional sports in my country.

          You also say, dear Edith, that “Americans should face up to the reality and either take ownership of their weird system, or then join the vast international majority, who are horrified by such things and try to change it.”

          After reeling from the, to say the least, eccentric grammar of that outburst, I failed to understand what you meant by “take ownership of their weird system”. To which “weird system” did you refer? Blatant commercialism? It’s all over the world, dear. Naked greed? Ditto. “Pay-for-play”? Don’t make me laugh. It might interest you to know that a great many classical music record labels charge performing artists a fee, often substantial, to release their recordings (which themselves are paid for, of course, by the artists) under the label’s auspices.

          And what about that “vast international majority”? Do you actually speak for them, or are you speaking through your hat? Please do inform me, and the other readers of this blog, precisely which elements of this “vast international majority” are doing anything of real substance to change (and I quote you again) “such things”, and exactly what actions are they taking?

          You can’t, can you, because there is no such change occurring. The “ethical world norms” you speak of, if any currently exist at all, are sadly buried – in EVERY country, not just the U.S. – by greed, corruption, and the strivings of the rich to become richer and the powerful to become more powerful.

          How pleasant – and delusional – it is to speak of “Democratic systems” and “something that the vast majority of the civilised world would find…appalling”. Dream on, dreamers: the days of true Representative Democracy are long gone. In this world, it’s the top one-percent crowd who run the show.

          My original problem with Wally’s post was that he – and you, Edith – seemed to be taking a holier-than-thou position on these issues, as if it is only “the Americans” who are nefarious evildoers. States Wally: “as usual, they (Americans) have no shame, nor embarrassment at such attitudes or policies.”

          Well, to use a truly American phrase, I call bulls**t on you both.

          I quote again from my reply to Wallace: “I don’t like American politics either. Corruption abounds in D.C. I know it and you know it.” I also clearly stated that “I am ashamed of (the NFL’s) action, and many other of their actions, but I’m ashamed for them, not for myself.”

          It upsets me and galls me that you two can indulge in America bashing without hesitation, but that neither of you has indicated which country YOU hail from, and how things there are so different and so much better than in MY country. You want to bash America? Fine – bring it on – but show some guts and come out from behind your wall(-ace) of silence and tell me where YOU are from, and just how perfect things are in YOUR country.

          I do not like many things that happen in America. But I was born here, and I live here, and truthfully, when all is said and done, I would rather be here than anywhere else. This is my home.

          As for you two…..maybe I’ll see you next time you’re tourists in San Francisco.

          And as a final postscript to wrap up this whole megillah: I hope Renee Fleming doesn’t take the gig. To hell with the NFL.

  2. Milkaa says:

    I hope so -we paid dearly in having to listen to her dreadful rendition last time round .

  3. Fred Plotkin says:

    This would be acceptable only if they ask the players on both teams to pay to appear as well.

  4. Emily G. says:

    But that’s the opposite of the way music (or any job) is supposed to work!

    1. Neil McGowan says:

      That was then, this is now.

      Money doesn’t just talk. It sings now, too.

  5. SVM says:

    This is precisely why we need militant organisations like the AFM. Let us hope that the good musicians will steer clear, and that the audiences will have the discernment to perceive the deterioration in quality.

  6. Martin says:

    Good, will keep her off that stage. Such performances are reasons why I stayed away from opera for more than the first 30 years of my life.
    Also the half-time-shows are mostly utter pop-mash bollocks. Unworthy of attention. Shall the NFL get as much money out of the industry which sells utter rubbish to the youth.

  7. Mr Oakmountain says:

    The sad thing is that many “popular” music acts make more money from “exposure” to the media (embarrassing photos, scandals, etc) than from e.g. the sales of their records. Since this is the case, it actually makes sense to make these people pay for nationwide exposure. “Real” musicians (i.e. people who actually get paid for the music they make, not for having their private lives all over the media) should not notice the difference too much, though. I’m not quite sure how Ms Fleming fits into this.

  8. lm says:

    Not sure why you dragged Ms. Fleming into this. She did not sing the half-time show; she sang the national anthem before the game. This is completely different. Classical performers never are the half-time entertainment at the Super Bowl.

  9. M2N2K says:

    The headline here is grossly misleading and therefore so are several earlier comments that are based on this misinformation. As noted by a couple of previous commenters, NFL is indeed proposing for *halftime* performers to pay for appearing, but classical musicians *never* perform at Super Bowl halftime. So, this has absolutely nothing to do with Renee Fleming or any classical artist who may be asked to perform the national anthem before the game.


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