Ridiculous Riders - Demand Week

By Gabriela Kalter

Photo courtesy of Taylor Player.

Ah, the perks of the rich and famous: private jets, personal assistants, designer threads, huge endorsement deals, and… fresh toilet seats? Yes, among the list of demands required for performance by the one and only Madonna is a brand new toilet seat upon her arrival at any given venue. The disposable paper lining won’t cut it for this material girl; she wants nothing less than the shine of fresh, untouched porcelain against her delicate derriere.

If this sounds crazy, that’s probably because it is. I guess being an international pop sensation somehow warrants stipulations of such high maintenance; the list of peculiar celebrity demands most certainly doesn’t end there. From food choice to furniture and everything in between, the specifications included in famous artists’ contracts run the gamut. In the negotiation of any large performance, an artist provides the venue’s promoter with a detailed document known as a rider, which meticulously outlines the ‘needs’ of the talent, contractually binding the venue to oblige.

The fascination with concert riders can be dated back to 1982, during the heyday of American hair metal, with Van Halen’s infamous 52-page-long document including the ‘M&M’ prohibition. Amongst an extensive list of required drinks and munchies, Van Halen’s rider requests a bowl of M&Ms, but explicitly warns against the presence of any brown ones. That’s right, some poor lackey got the coveted honor of manually removing all of the brown M&Ms from the candy bowl.

Photo courtesy of Stewardship

Often criticized for being unreasonably excessive, Van Halen’s M&M clause set the precedent for the continuation of unruly celebrity demands in the music industry. However, the band insists that the ridiculous specification was a deliberate tool used to gauge the attentiveness of the promoters. Adherence to this small detail was meant to prove whether or not the rider was actually read in its entirety. Eddie and his cohorts claim that if their backstage snack failed to meet the brown-free standard, they would have reason to speculate that more crucial aspects of production — such as staging, sound and lighting — could be carelessly overlooked in the same manner. A valid point perhaps counter-intuitively executed.

Catering needs often comprise a good chunk of the concert rider, making promoters aware of various dietary restrictions and comfort foods that artists prefer. Metallica’s 2004 rider suggests an enthusiastic love of bacon, demanding (in CAPS, no less) that it be available at every meal during the day. The heavy-metal rockers also get particular about their brand of water (NO EVIAN), and want vegetarian baked beans (Heinz 57) alongside the bacon. At least some of their requirements are environmentally-friendly; they specify that no styrofoam cups be used. Kudos to that, Metallica.

Other strange food demands include 50 Cent’s note that there be no beef in the vicinity of his dressing room, Michael Bolton’s aversion to onions, Clay Aiken’s distinct request that there be “no nuts, mushrooms, coffee, mint, chocolate or shellfish,” and perhaps my favorite request of all, Carrot Top’s “no carrot cake”stipulation.

Thankfully, some stars recognize how silly the concert rider can be and decide to have a little fun with it. Iggy Pop’s 18-page rider, written by The Stooges’ roadie Jos Grain, provides the promoter with material that’s delightfully entertaining and quirky — adjectives not routinely associated with contracts. The document is colored with amusing rants about incompetent monitor men and sassy lighting guys. It even includes an addendum outlining a pitch for a kooky reality show entitled “Dead Dog Island,” where contestants are presented with a dead canine of their favorite breed, challenged to cook it in six or seven different ways, and then eat it. I would definitely maybe watch this.

In homage to the tone of the Iggy Pop rider, The Foo Fighters deliver their demands in a similarly humorous fashion. Some highlights include the request for four pairs of tube socks, four pairs of boxer shorts (because who doesn’t love clean underwear), fresh vegetables with a note exclaiming that cauliflower blows (which it does), and an assortment of various cheeses (next to which appears a declaration that Dave Grohl loves stinky cheese.)

Unfortunately, most concert riders aren’t so comical, and asinine demands are given in complete seriousness. Take Katy Perry, for instance. This California gurl’s strict rider contains very defined requirements for dressing room décor, including the presence of two cream-colored egg chairs (one with a foot stool), and a refrigerator with a glass door. I guess opening the fridge to see its contents isn’t part of this diva’s teenage dream. Apparently neither are carnations. She requests some oddly specific flowers, like white and purple hydrangeas, pink and white roses and peonies, white orchids, but NO carnations. God forbid.

Photo courtesy of Patynx.

But, what’s maybe the most frustrating part of Ms. Perry’s rider is the section that addresses her chauffeur. It’s sternly mentioned that her driver is prohibited from starting any conversations with her, must have their cell phone ringer turned off, and is not allowed to even so much as glance at the backseat through the rearview mirror. Whoa, talk about being a pop princess.

Speaking of music industry royalty, let’s talk Britney. Ms. Spears requires a private telephone line for outgoing calls only. In fact, if she receives any unauthorized calls in her dressing room, she reserves the right to impose a fine on the promoter for $5,000. I’m sure those promoters are feverishly praying that no one accidentally dials the wrong number, or else they’re out five grand. Oysh, that’s a pretty steep price to pay for someone else’s chubby fingers.

Jennifer Lopez’s demands are also rather over the top. J.Lo’s rider specifies that everything in her dressing room be strictly white: couches, chairs, flowers, drapes, everything. Not cream, not ivory, but white. She also asks for an assortment of French diptyque candles- specifically the tuberose and heliotrope blends (whatever those entail.) These Parisian mixtures of wax and perfume go for about $50 a pop, kind of a pricey request to make for the taping of a charity music video, no? I don’t think she’s still Jenny from the block, because Jenny from the block would probably settle for some matches and a can of air freshener.

Maybe it’s the attention from the media that’s inflating their egos, maybe it’s the multi-platinum record sales, or maybe it’s just the fact that they know their crazy demands will be met. But, whatever the reason, pop stars and rock idols continue to demonstrate their flair for the dramatic. TheSmokingGun.com provides an extensive list of insane concert riders, including the pdfs of the original documents. The demands these stars make are pretty far-fetched, but maybe what’s more unbelievable is the fact that we’re continually willing to comply.