Eddie Van Halen died on October 6, 2020. Known as “the most influential guitarist of his generation,” he “plucked, tapped, strummed, bent, flicked, and scraped” the strings of his instrument:
His band was also famous (among economists) for the brown M&Ms rider.
No Brown M&Ms
A Rider Roll
In 17th century England, acts of Parliament and other official documents were written on scrolls of parchment. When someone had to add a provision, he (yes, he) wrote it on a new roll, called it a rider, and stuck it with the original scroll. Now, while we don’t need the parchment, riders remain as the extras added to any contract.
The M&M Rider
One of entertainment’s most famous contractual riders was the M&Ms clause. When the band Van Halen was on a concert tour, they never knew if a hall or arena could safely accommodate their complex wiring and heavy equipment. The electrical set-up could be inadequate; a floor could collapse. Yes, their contract explained all they needed. But they never knew if anyone read it. So, they inserted a rider that banned brown M&Ms backstage. If the brown M&Ms were missing, then management probably was aware of the details and their safety requisites.
This is the tiny section that had huge significance in a Van Halen 1982 World Tour contract:
Our Bottom Line: The Cost of a Contract
Because contracts can be voluminous, people don’t always read them.
David Lee Roth tells how the event organizers at Colorado State University (Pueblo) left the brown M&Ms in the bowl. Subsequently, some of the band’s heavy equipment broke through a new $80,000 bouncy basketball floor in a backstage area. However, checking every safety requirement at every venue would have had too high a dollar, time, and energy cost (arriving early, having the people to check and also do a setup).
The M&Ms method was a “cheap” shortcut.
Below, the band’s lead singer tells the M&M story:
My sources and more: Thanks to Timothy Taylor for reminding me that Eddie Van Halen created the brown M&Ms rider. From there, the NY Times had more about the band and its leader, and Insider told about the contract.
Please note today I included several sentences from a previously published econlife post.