Rihanna says Work Work Work but not for Money: Is Exposure Valid Consideration?

The Superbowl is one of the most famous sporting events in the world, drawing in millions of spectators. But for some, like me, the best part of this year’s game was when the football stopped, and Rihanna came out on the field.

Rihanna’s halftime show drew in 118.7 million viewers, 5.6 million more than the game. Her super star status was affirmed with this performance; with hit song after hit song and choreography that social media is replicating, she showed us all why she is one of the greats in the world despite her musical hiatus.

A Rihanna performance is rare, so the NFL must have paid big bucks for her to come out her hibernation, right? So how much did she make?


So much work, time, and sometimes the performer’s own money goes into these shows, so why do they walk away empty-handed? The NFL argues that the exposure is payment, but does exposure meet the necessary standard for a contract?

For a contract to be legally binding, there must be an offer, consideration, and acceptance. In a typical employment contract, the consideration the employer offers is payment in exchange for their services. So, would exposure be a fair replacement for pay, and therefore fair consideration?

On a large stage like the Superbowl, I believe the exposure Rihanna received would count as fair consideration, therefore validating her Superbowl contract. After her performance, searches for Fenty Beauty skyrocketed 883%, audio streams of her music were up 211%, and digital album sales increased 301%.1 Even the songs she did not include in her set-list saw a boost in numbers. But let’s imagine a world where Rihanna’s performance got no exposure at all. There were massive power outages across the world, an earthquake struck before she was supposed to play, or the President interrupted with emergency news and her show was sidelined. Would the exposure still count as consideration then?

There is an ambiguousness to exposure, and it can be an empty promise that an artist may never see the benefit from. In contract law, this is called an illusory promise.

An illusory promise that appears to be binding is actually an unenforceable promise because it is indefinite or vague. This type of promise leaves the promisor the option of escaping their contractual obligation.

But is exposure illusory?

Exposure as consideration is illusory because it is an empty promise. The offeror has no way to guarantee that they will hold up their end of the contract and the offeror does not have a responsibility to uphold their end because it was never fully promised initially. For example, A offers to give B $50 for an apple when they have the money. This is not valid consideration because it does not ensure that B will get the money in exchange for his apple; this is a one-sided promise, not an exchange. Had the NFL had one of those aforementioned accidents and had Rihanna not gotten the amount of exposure promised, her lawyers might have been arguing a breach of contract.  

For an artist like Rihanna on the Superbowl stage, viewership is assured, and as a billionaire and legend, she would have been fine if thirty people watched the show. However, I would opt for a tighter contract if I was performing – you never know what could happen.

[1]Ashley King “Rihanna Didn’t Rihanna Didn’t Get Paid to Play the Super Bowl — But Sometimes ‘The Exposure’ Is Actually Worth It” (2023)

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