The rumor of the crazy contract rider … you’ve read it on TMZ or some other gossipy entertainment website or blog. An artist wants their dressing room, aka the green room, to be all white and populated with only red trimmed yellow roses, white lilies and white roses or they can choose not to perform. It sounds a bit ridiculous and slightly diva-ish, but that is no tall tale. Those demands were only a smidgen of the rider from Jennifer Lopez. In 2009 a rider for hip hop legend Jay-Z required two 6-packs of Sapporo beer in bottles, two 750 milliliter bottles if Patron Silver Tequila and numerous bottles of specific wines and champagnes that rang in around $300 per bottle.
Now, not all musicians are divas. Many of the younger artists are leaning towards more level-headed requests. Justin Bieber prefers some run-of-the-mill snacks, herbal teas and a smattering of fruit platters. For all her glow and shimmery presence, Taylor Swift prefers to keep her dressing room low key with a couple pints of Ben & Jerry’s, Starbucks and pasta with a jar of Ragu on Saturday performances. Heck, Bob Dylan just wants some soap, towels a few ashtrays, a mirror and a couple of banquet tables. Easy peasy right?
While it is fun to make a little fun, or to have a good chuckle at some of the outlandish requests, did you ever wonder where and when these crazy rider asks began? The mother of invention was, in this case, necessity. In 1982 Van Halen included a single line in their rider that requested and warned the venue that a bowl of M&Ms containing no brown units of the candy must be in the band’s dressing room. If any of the little brown suckers were found, the venue would have hell to pay.
Okay, granted this sounds the most diva of them all, but Van Halen’s request had nothing to do with food at all. After performing several gigs at venues that did not meet the band’s technical requirements to ensure the safety of the band, crew, audience and venue, someone got creative. The thought behind the M&M line was that if there were brown ones in the bowl, the venue didn’t read the rider closely enough and wouldn’t be up to technical specification. On several occasions, this assumption proved to be correct. At one show the rider requirements regarding the weight of the production and the flooring requirements were ignored, causing the stage to sink through the flooring … which resulted in more than $85,000 worth of damage to a brand new floor!
Everything has a beginning, middle and end. The ridiculous rider demands began with safety, ballooned to diva proportions and with a new generation seem to be fading into obscurity (one could only hope).