In a giant coliseum early Friday morning, singer Pharrell Williams performed his hit song “Happy” and shouted to throngs of screaming fans: “Make some noise for Wal-Mart!”
He wasn’t paid to say that. He wasn’t even paid to perform at the event, not a major concert but the annual Wal-Mart shareholders’ meeting in Fayetteville, Ark
. Musicians Robin Thicke, Sarah McLaughlin, Aloe Blacc and Harry Connick Jr. also performed Friday, free of cost.
These stars usually command six-figure payments for performances and appearances. So what’s in it for them?
“Every entertainer that is here has something to do with our business,” Wal-Mart spokesperson Dianna Gee told MSNBC during last year’s equally star-studded event. “There’s some connection from the business, whether it’s CDs, books, or t-shirts.” Film studios and record labels “really work with us” to recruit the performers, she added.
Her explanation makes sense. As one of the world’s largest retailers, Wal-Mart has access to 35 million shoppers daily.
If the company decides to feature a DVD or album, sales of those items could spike.
A Wal-Mart spokesman confirmed to Business Insider that none of this year’s celebrities were paid for their appearances.
Last year, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, Tom Cruise, and Hugh Jackman performed at the meeting.
This year’s event drew about 14,000 people, including workers and shareholders, from around the world. The meeting is mostly a pep rally of sorts, with celebrity performances punctuated by speeches from Wal-Mart executives on their plans for the future of the company.
Here’s a look at Friday’s festivities.
First, Pharrell Williams performed “Happy.”
Then Robin Thicke joined him on stage.
Despite the early hour — it was about 7 a.m. local time — the crowd went wild.
Harry Connick Jr. sang a song and also served as the master of ceremonies.
Sarah McLaughlin slowed things down with her somber hit, “Will You Remember Me.”
The meeting ended with a performance by Aloe Blacc, who sang “Wake Me Up.”
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