You might have heard recently that Travis Scott is performing at the upcoming Super Bowl 53 Halftime Show, alongside Maroon 5 and Big Boi. Check the internet on it and you’ll find that a lot of people are upset about it. Why? Because apparently taking the world’s biggest stage is a stance that sides with the NFL in blackballing Colin Kaepernick and his National-Anthem-kneeling movement, and in turn that it’s a slap in the face to the Black Lives Matter movement.
In the ensuing the fallout since the announcement, a lot of controversy has been drummed up on twitter and there’s general confusion around what went down, so let’s plainly clear up a few things about the whole situation:
1. Travis Scott and the NFL are donating $500K to charity.
As reported by Variety, Scott and the NFL are giving the non-profit organization Dream Corps, a philanthropy focusing on tackling social justice issues, the donation in conjunction with his halftime performance. As far as statements go, we all remember Beyonce’s “Formation” halftime performance that started a nationwide conversation about police violence. But did Beyonce work with the NFL to give back to directly help solve the dissidence? Nope. Scott is being proactive in trying to make a difference, rather than criticize the political landscape. Props to Travis.
2. Travis Scott didn’t meet with Colin Kaepernick to ask permission – and he doesn’t need it.
There’s a lot of confusion, it seems, around the content of Scott’s conversations with NFL pariah Colin Kaepernick. Many on twitter think he went to Kaep to ask for his permission, as a black man with fame, to perform in the halftime show despite the active conversation about the NFL’s lack of support for African American rights. In fact, the phone call wasn’t about getting permission or consent – it was simply a conversation of Scott telling Kaepernick he was going to do it, laying out the reasoning and hoping to walk away with no hard feelings.
“Scott and Kaepernick had at least one phone conversation before the rapper confirmed his Super Bowl appearance…A source close to Scott said that while the two did not necessarily agree, they emerged from the conversation with mutual respect and understanding, with the rapper taking the stance that everyone makes a statement in their own way and he felt that the money going toward Dream Corps, combined with the platform provided by the Super Bowl, will do some good.”
So, it seems sources reported initially that the conversation ended with “mutual understanding,” but Kaepernick’s wife subsequently tweeted:
There is NO mutual respect and there is NO understanding for anyone working against @Kaepernick7 PERIOD. #stoplying — NESSA (@nessnitty)
Last time I checked, Colin Kaepernick (and his wife Nessa) aren’t playing in this year’s Super Bowl. Atlanta is not his city, he is not an NFL executive, and he is not a musician. He’s not Travis Scott’s manager, or his booking agent, his record label, mentor, colleague, friend, or anyone with the power to overrule Scott’s decision.
While Kaepernick effectively chose to take the dive on his career to start a national conversation, it shouldn’t be presumed that every celebrity with a platform will agree, or take the same measures to continue that conversation with the public at large. Colin Kaepernick’s wishes don’t really matter here, symbolic or not. Which brings me to my next point:
3. This is about Travis Scott’s business, not Colin Kaepernick or BLM.
Don’t put much stock in news that Rihanna turned down the chance to play at the 2019 Super Bowl halftime show, and Jay-Z did the same (he ripped the NFL in “APESHIT”.) The two household names have each been A-list superstars for over a decade: Rihanna, active since 2005, has a net worth is $245 million and Jay-Z is worth a whopping $900 million. Scott is worth a reported $8 million, comparatively. It sounds funny when you say $8 million isn’t a lot, but when you put Scott’s celebrity and clout up against titans like Jay-Z and Rihanna, you can see why they have the wealth-made luxury of rejecting the opportunity under the headline of “standing up for Kaep.” Scott is trying to make it, and this is his shot for global recognition.
Halftime performers are not paid directly for their performance. Presumably, the massive event, with its 100-million-viewer exposure will lead to more artist awareness among the broader demographic that the NFL’s fan base is comprised of. From angsty teenagers to college age students, to parents and grandparents in their 80s, and everything in between, the Super Bowl gives an artist their a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand their reach wider and broader than any other single event. That leads to more streams, more album sales, and more concert tickets sold as soon as he steps off the stage and the second half starts.
4. Adding Travis Scott to the existing halftime ticket is nonetheless a big business win for the NFL.
You may not like it, but locking down Travis Scott for the NFL is good business for them, too. The NFL doesn’t have to pay Scott for the performance, aside from the tax-deductible donation I mentioned prior. The NFL looks progressive both in its support of Scott’s ask to support a cause of his choosing, and at the same time locks in the third most popular rapper on the planet (behind only Drake & Nicki Minaj in terms of monthly Spotify listeners.)
Aside from the intangible “cool points” on getting a hyper-relevant urban artist at the prime of hip-hop’s relevance in the United States, this is a boon for the NFL from a marketing perspective. Last year’s Super Bowl in Minnesota saw Atlanta rank 29th out of 56 measured major markets, despite being ranked 10th in overall size. This year, you can be sure that number will rise.
Marketers will love the diversity of the audience, meaning we should see more culturally-relevant advertising this year as well. Having the game hosted in Atlanta, featuring Big Boi and Travis Scott on the ticket means that the African-American audience will tune in.
You can also expect that the younger demographic will care enough to tune in as Maroon 5, one of the most popular bands on the planet, performs as well. Your niece knows Maroon 5. So does your mom. And your aunt. Now all three might know Travis Scott, too.
5. Travis Scott performing at halftime is, above all, a huge win for hip-hop, globally.
Anyone complaining that a star like Scott ‘doesn’t need the money’ or shouldn’t do it for social justice reasons may be forgetting the bigger picture: This is, above all, a major win for urban music on a global scale. Never before has a hip-hop artist been on the ticket for the Super Bowl, and the closest thing it’s seen to urban music during the Super Bowl was in 2016 when Beyonce, a prototypical pop artist, took the stage.
While Hip-Hop/Rap is now the most popular genre in the US, it registers as the most-popular genre for just 26% of the world, so any opportunity to expand his music’s global appeal is an opportunity worth considering. At the same time, the NFL is a global economy, with 40% of its fanbase outside of the United States. Considering the NFL’s global appeal, the potential returns feel tangible. This is about business, and Scott has an opportunity to share his music, and hip-hop music overall, with the world.
Whether or not you agree with Travis Scott taking the stage at halftime is beside the point. It’s happening, he made the call – he doesn’t need anyone’s permission – and he’s going to rock the stage in Atlanta on February 3rd. I give him props for knowing what’s best for himself as an artist, for his push to expand the audience of hip-hop, and for choosing a commendable cause to directly support with his platform, rather than spurning or criticizing the organization that’s providing the global platform for him to make hip-hop history.