The Black Eyed Peas Worked for Free: Should You?


In 2010, The Black Eyed Peas made an estimated 81.6 million dollars from touring, but they didn’t make a dime for their performance at yesterday’s Super Bowl. Why not? Unlike The Blues Brothers, they didn’t lose their fee on a big bar bill, they simply agreed to play for free in the first place.

As preposterous as that may sound, a new article at Forbes.com points out that the Super Bowl halftime acts traditionally work for free in return for the exposure. (Insert Janet Jackson joke here.) Last year, the Super Bowl brought in 106.5 million viewers and this year is on track to break records. So what is 106.5 million eyeballs worth? For advertisers such as Pepsi, Doritos and Carmax, it was around 3 million for every 30 seconds. Imagine if the Peas had bought an ad equal to their time on stage.

Now you could argue, and some will, that the less than stellar half-time performance didn’t help sell any records but I assure you, it did. I pushed the button on iTunes. They were selling the whole half-time show for $10.00 and I can’t have too many versions of “Pump it” on my ipod.

The artists who work sans performance fee, do receive a check to cover their travel expenses and the cost of putting on the show. And just think about the added cost to the stadium’s electric bill!

The marketing mavens Forbes contacted for their article felt that the exposure at the Super Bowl made it supremely worth working for free. But does that ever work out for the average Joe?

Peruse the writer job ads on Craigslist and you’ll find a large portion of them pay in “exposure.” Unfortunately, my landlord won’t accept me driving around with his name on my car in return for the rent. But certainly, there are occasions where it makes sense to give your time or your product without any monetary return.

The question is, what’s your Super Bowl? Is there any occasion where the exposure for your company would be worth giving up a fee? Or is it more often a case of you get what you pay for?

  • n

    clearly youre in the minority. worst half time in years.

    • Cynthia Boris

      Maybe so – but do you really think it’s not going to boost sales for the Peas?

  • http://news.seolinktagstic.com/pt/seo/ Steven W.

    The BEP performance was terrible! In the realm of “you get what you pay for” … following the national anthem foul-up and horrendous performance on the field by both teams – combined that was probably the worst super bowl EVER!

  • http://blog.realworldtraffic.com Real World Traffic

    They do say that there’s no such thing as bad publicity…but seriously, the show was awful. I think it’s going to sell albums no matter what (maybe not a ridiculous amount, but some), but even so — for a band that’s already VERY established like black eyed peas, do they really need to be performing for free? even at the superbowl?

  • Cynthia Boris

    The point isn’t whether or not it was a good show. The point is, is working for exposure a good idea? Bad or not, being on the Super Bowl has everyone talking about them. Simply performing at a concert with their usual fee wouldn’t have their name on everyone’s lips.

  • James

    It is irrelevant whether the Peas played a good show (as related to the marketing value)…..and beside the sales on iTunes, the superbowl represents being at the top of your musical game and being relevant….anyone should play at the superbowl for free as it reminds people that you are still popular…the same goes for the big brands that advertise there….everyone expects to see the market leaders showing their stuff

    @jamesmulvey