Katy Perry, Rihanna & Coldplay on Super Bowl Halftime Shortlist

The National Football League doesn't usually pay the act that performs at halftime during the Super Bowl. But in a twist this year, the league has asked artists under consideration for the high-profile gig to pay to play, according to people familiar with the matter.

The NFL has narrowed down the list of potential performers for the 2015 Super Bowl to three candidates: Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Coldplay, these people said. While notifying the artists' camps of their candidacy, league representatives also asked at least some of the acts if they would be willing to contribute a portion of their post-Super Bowl tour income to the league, or if they would make some other type of financial contribution, in exchange for the halftime gig.

The pay-to-play suggestion got a chilly reception from the candidates' representatives, these people said.

NFL spokeswoman Joanna Hunter said the league's contracts with performers were confidential and that its only goal was "to put on the best possible show."

As for the lineup, she said, "when we have something to announce, we'll announce it." Super Bowl XLIX is to be played outside Phoenix on Feb. 1.

It's unclear how much money the NFL was seeking, and whether it would likely have amounted to more or less than the extra income the chosen performer might stand to generate from the exposure. No decision has been made yet and it is possible another act could be selected.

The Super Bowl halftime show, which this year featured the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bruno Mars, drew a record 115.3 million viewers in February, according to the NFL, more than the game itself. The entire event averaged 112.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen. That was more than double the size of the audience for the Academy Awards this year, more than triple the audience for this year's Grammy Awards and more than 11 times the size of MTV's most recent Video Music Awards.

The show has always been among the most valuable promotional opportunities for the music industry, and in recent years some performers have put tickets for their tours on sale immediately following their appearance on the field, to capitalize on the exposure. Beyoncé announced her "Mrs. Carter Show" tour immediately following her halftime performance in 2013, for example, and the world tour grossed more than any other that year besides Bon Jovi's, according to trade publication Pollstar. Bruno Mars also put tickets to his "Moonshine Jungle" tour on sale the Monday after the game this year.

CD and download sales also typically get a temporary boost during the week following the artist's Super Bowl performance.

But it is impossible to know what percentage of an artist's concert ticket and album buyers were inspired by the halftime show. The impact is likely to be more significant for an up-and-coming artist such as Bruno Mars than for established stars such as Rihanna, Katy Perry and Coldplay, promoters say. Ms. Perry, for example, sold 92% of the tickets to the concerts she headlined from May to July, grossing more than $36 million, according to Pollstar. Rihanna grossed $141.9 million on 90 shows around the world in 2013; Coldplay grossed $171.3 million on 67 global dates on their last tour in 2012, according to Pollstar.

The NFL typically covers the halftime performers' travel and production expenses, which can run well into the millions. PepsiCo Inc. PEP -0.31% will be the title sponsor of the show for the third consecutive year in 2015, but doesn't "sign or work any deals with the talent selected," said a Pepsi spokeswoman.