Tour Contract Riders: What they were, What they are now

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If anyone here has followed a famous pop star, you’ve heard the myths: that they have the most ridiculous demands in order to perform that define them as total divas or complete weirdos. The truth is, demands like that didn’t exactly start out that way. But let’s talk about the bread and butter before we get to how it’s done today.

The contract rider is a list of artist demands from the promoter that they list in a pre-determined contract as something to be prepared before they arrive at their gig.  These contract riders can have very specific demands as far as the way the venue is set up, either as far as food goes or in the technical rider which involves the electronics, such as lighting and sound system.  Usually, with your regular artist, the contract rider will just include the technical stuff and some food for the band, give or take some alcohol.  However, usually with superstars, the contract rider can be something pretty intense, including more than just some meals for the crew and some lighting effects.

The first contract rider that was brought up to light was famous rock and roll band Van Halen.  Van Halen’s infamous contract had demands which included a bowl of M&M’s with all the brown ones removed.  However, this was merely a concept developed by the frontman David Lee Roth, stating that the demands were not meant to be taken as an act of bratty rock ‘n’ roll celebrities, but a confirmation that if their M&M’s demand was fulfilled, then the band could be at ease that the rest of the rider conditions were fulfilled (Because really, who dislikes brown M&M’s that much?)

That was back in 1982, 30 years ago.  Nowadays, especially since the tail end of the 90’s, riders have become something of a joke to the common eye with how intense the demands are.  If you followed the “downfall” of Britney Spears, you’ll know that her contract rider specified the infamous McDonalds buffet with no bread on the burgers along with a lunchtime supper.  Online site The Week rated the #1 most ridiculous contract rider was Kanye West’s, which included imported or recut Versace towels along with a driver that wore 100% cotton (Makes sense).  Another one on the site included a tour rider of Katy Perry asking for a driver that didn’t speak a word to her nor look through the rearview mirror (Only a little dangerous for the sake of privacy).

Now, just because you’re touring around does not mean you can make demands like this in your contract rider.  The reason these artists have some intense demands is because they ultimately generate some serious profit at these shows.  To a band that comes in and makes a good and humble amount of money from a concert, all that’s really to be said as far as hospitality goes is that there should be some meals for you and all your friends; but fear not, eventually you’ll pick up steam and one day be able to pull a Jennifer Lopez and ask for a giant trailer furnished with flowers and other… unnecessary things.

What, you think that’s odd?  What would YOU put on yours if you were a super star?

…the strangest thing is, your need would probably be met if you were that famous.

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4 thoughts on “Tour Contract Riders: What they were, What they are now

  1. Pingback: Are You Scrobbling Yet? | Artist Management & Music Intermediaries

  2. Pingback: Are You Scrobbling Yet? | Global Music Tribune

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