This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Feb. 2 Music Issue. Subscribe today!
THERE IS NO science to choosing the Super Bowl halftime act. "I wish it were just a process," says Sarah Moll, the NFL exec who's worked on the show since 2006 and now runs it. "That would be a lot easier." Instead it takes a year to negotiate with managers and labels, get approval from sponsors and court stars. Once Moll and her team target a finalist, the clincher is seeing live shows. Bruno Mars, a surprise pick to some, blew them away with his stage presence at a 2013 Brooklyn concert.
Of course, snags happen. Remember how Beyonce wowed in 2013? Turns out she'd been booked for 2012, then announced her pregnancy, leaving Moll five months to scramble. Luckily, the sub (Madonna) was no schlub.
Moll can swing that sort of Plan B because the Super Bowl is an unparalleled showcase. And the NFL knows it. Last summer word broke that the league was essentially asking artists to pay to play halftime. Howls ensued. The league backtracked, and Katy Perry, who had previously balked at the idea, signed on.
Moll won't discuss whom she's looking at for Super Bowl 50, but her playlist proves she's all ears. "Right now," she says, "I'm listening to a lot of Imagine Dragons, Bleachers, Jay Z and Beyonce." Stay tuned.