GLENDALE, Ariz. (KAMR/KCIT) – As sports fans debate whether the Kansas City Chiefs or the Philadelphia Eagles will triumph during Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Ariz., music fans are united in anticipating the halftime show expected to feature Rihanna.

This follows Rihanna previously declining to perform in the 2019 halftime show out of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, as noted in previous reporting, as well as the recent birth of her first child. Jay-Z’s Roc Nation company was reported to be executive producing the show for a fourth year, with Jesse Collins returning as an executive producer.

As fans track the different names slated for the pregame and halftime shows and theorize about the performances, some may also wonder: How does the Super Bowl halftime show headliner get chosen?

That depends on the organizers, as well as who’s paying for the show.

According to a spokesperson in a 2018 article from Forbes, the National Football League doesn’t pay the artists who perform in the Super Bowl, but rather covers expenses and production costs. Rather the show tends to serve as a means of promoting upcoming tours or music for the performers.

That means that the NFL and its sponsoring companies are likely the parties with the biggest stake in the show, who it features, and what they do, as the ones footing the bill. With that in mind, as noted in a 2016 interview with now-Senior Director of Event Operations Katie Keenan, the NFL has a full-time events staff, a core group of contractors, and its vendor partners that all have hands in organizing every aspect of the big game.

The NFL also noted that this year will mark the first of a partnership between it, Apple Music, and Roc Nation, which involves Roc Nation serving as strategic entertainment advisors for the live performance. The Washington Post and Entertainment Tonight, when covering the emergence of the Roc Nation deal, noted that the production company would be choosing entertainers for the Super Bowl as well as shows throughout the NFL season. Jay-Z commented to reporters in 2019 that the production company would consider a range of factors when suggesting entertainers for the halftime show, including the community in which the show is placed, whether or not the performers are expressly from that area.

In addition, the possible list of headliners is impacted by the habits of the organizers and the willingness of the performers themselves. As noted in other reports, the NFL doesn’t tend to bring back performers for repeat Super Bowl halftime show performances. Aside from the likes of acts such as Up With People, Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, Al Hirt, Gloria Estefan, and Beyonce, the vast majority of headliners for the Super Bowl only do so once.

Also noted in previous reports, some performers decline the opportunity. Apart from Rihanna’s previous refusal to perform in the Super Bowl, Jay-Z, Pink, and Cardi B have been among those to say ‘no’ to the NFL and its producers.

So, in the end, who decides which performer headlines the Super Bowl halftime show?

  • Popular opinion, in highlighting which performers may have a broad enough appeal for the audience;
  • Sponsoring businesses and advertisers;
  • The NFL and its producing and event partners;
  • Affiliates and organizers connected to the host city; and
  • The possible headliners themselves.

The Super Bowl halftime show has evolved from a showcase of marching bands from nearby schools to a commercial spectacle, and it’s grown enough that it requires many hands and many organizing minds, from the first producer pitching a list of names to the last stagehand screwing in a final lightbulb.