The Rise of Entertainment at Sporting Events
The recent announcement that York lads Shed Seven will be headlining the Rugby League Grand Final this weekend has certainly added to the excitement of the approaching event – not least for fans of British alt-rock!
Of course, this is just one of a great many sporting events that have played host to major musical acts throughout recent years – but just where did this trend come from?
In this article, the live act booking specialists at Twisted Entertainment take a look at the history of this fusion of sport and music.
A History of Entertainment in the Sporting Industry
The inclusion of music is definitely not the most recent of sports trends. Specially selected songs have long been used to introduce matches and tournaments on the television, and both current and classic tunes have been adopted by teams as chants for decades.
However, sports entertainment is facing a musical revolution. The matches or competitions themselves are slowly becoming just one part of a wider and more varied event that incorporates live acts of gradually increasing magnitude.
This change has been seen more and more in recent times. The 1969 FA cup final at the old Wembley Stadium between Leicester City and Manchester City – fifty years ago – featured no music except the chants of fans. In fact, the stadium didn’t host live acts at all until the huge London Rock and Roll Show was staged there in 1972.
The Superbowl, on the other hand, hosted its very first halftime show at its inaugural event. The performance included trumpeter Al Hirt and the marching bands of the University of Arizona and Grambling State, along with two men flying with the aid of jet packs.
Perhaps under the influence of the Superbowl, sport and music – two very different ends of the entertainment industry spectrum – have gradually come to meet in the middle. As a case in point, the most recent FA Cup final on 18th May 2019 opened with a DJ set from Radio 1’s Annie Mac.
Structure of Sporting Events
The major events attached to some of the world’s biggest sports – football (or soccer), American football and rugby to name a few – almost always have a first half and second half, divided by a “half time” break.
This allows teams to briefly rest and recover, revise their tactics and often change sides to counteract any location-based advantage. It also offers an opportunity for pundits to broadcast their analysis of the game or match so far.
For those watching at home, half time is also an opportunity for advertisers to promote their products. Airtime during sporting finals is notoriously expensive.
Live music events are staged at this point during the Superbowl, with the entire break usually taking between 30-40 minutes.
As ice hockey tournaments are divided into three parts, the break between the second and third segment is usually reserved for entertainment.
However, other sporting events – such as the Rugby League Grand Final – choose to have bands opening the match, retaining a shorter half-time break.
Neither men’s or women’s soccer matches tend to feature opening or half time entertainment – although the FA Cup has featured a number of “opening acts” in previous years – Annie Mac being the most recent. Hard-Fi “headlined” from Wembley’s roof in 2012, and in 2013, six music acts including Lethal Bizzle, The Pigeon Detectives and Devlin took part in a “Battle of the Bands” across six FA Cup matches, in which the winner’s song was to be named the new “FA Cup Anthem”.
The halftime show feature is impractical for other major tournaments – including men’s and women’s tennis, baseball or boxing – as the parts of these games are often irregularly divided.
There are, however, spectacular opening ceremonies for global sporting occasions such as the soccer World Cup and the Olympics which feature a series of high-calibre acts and musicians.
Why is Live Music in Sport Becoming More Popular?
Half time shows and opening acts serve to create a “buzz” and adds another dimension of entertainment for both those attending the live event and watching at home.
Of course, it’s also a draw for fans of the particular artists performing – and always aims to be a spectacle – so shows of this kind are likely to increase viewing figures and boost revenue.
The Superbowl has hosted a half-time show with live acts since it first began. It is famous for its increasingly big names and growing extravagance, with huge numbers of viewers tuning in year on year. Lady Gaga’s 2017 half time performance was watched by 150 million viewers.
Numbers in recent years have dropped, however, with Justin Timberlake performing to 103 million in 2018 and Maroon 5’s performance at the Superbowl’s halftime in 2019 attracting just over 98 million.
However, from its beginnings in the 60s – where attendees were entertained by high school and university marching bands – the star power of the performers has undeniably grown and grown. Acts throughout history have included:
Ella Fitzgerald, Andy Williams
Mickey Rooney, Chubby Checker
New Kids on the Block, Gloria Estefan, Michael Jackson, Patti Labelle, Diana Ross, ZZ Top, Boys II Men, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder
Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Aerosmith, NSYNC, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, Nelly, U2, Shania Twain, No Doubt, Sting, Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock and Justin Timberlake, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Bruce Springsteen
The Who, The Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Slash, Madonna, LMFAO, Cirque du Soleil, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., Cee Lo Green, Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz, Missy Elliott, Coldplay, Mark Ronson, Maroon 5
Jennifer Lopez and Shakira are lined up to play in 2020 – so let’s see if they can improve on the Superbowl halftime 2019 viewing figures.
With bigger and bigger lineups of massive stars of pop and rock music, the focus on entertainment at the Superbowl has grown immensely throughout the years.
Rugby League Grand Final
With everything ramping up for the Rugby League final on 12th October – this coming weekend – there will be some who are looking forward to the performance by Shed Seven as much as the game itself.
The alternative rock band from York in the North of England are likely to whip up the atmosphere and generate a shared excitement amongst fans with their anthemic tracks such as Going for Gold and Chasing Rainbows.
While not all major sporting events feature live music, others have embraced the growing trend, with the Superbowl half time show and Rugby League Grand Final opening acts growing in size and spectacle each year.
Hand in hand, sports and entertainment have come a long way since 1967 – and we’re curious to see where this trend will go next!