Van Halen’s M&M’s Rider

Okay, so this one is out of left field. Urban legend held for years that Van Halen (and plenty of other spoiled rock n’rollers) had these very specific entitlements. Turns out, this one, at least, is true. This rider comes from a 1982, 53-page contract written by Van Halen found in the files of Jack Belle, a former New York concert promoter.

The rider’s “Munchies” section was where the group made a candy-with-a-caveat request for “M&M’s (Warning: Absolutely no brown ones”.

Van Halen’s “Munchies provision” Source:

Van Halen’s “Munchies provision” Source:

While this request is often described as an example of typical excess, the extraordinarily successful rock n’roll group has said the M&M provision was included to make sure that promoters had actually read its lengthy rider. If brown M&M’s were in the backstage candy bowl, Van Halen assumed that more important aspects of a performance–lighting, staging, security, ticketing–may have been botched by an inattentive promoter.

In the past, coal miners put a canary in the mine to keep track of the oxygen levels. As long as the canary could be heard, there were no worries.   If the canary stopped singing (read died) then the miners were in danger due to the high carbon dioxide levels. “No brown M&M’s” was this group’s indicator that things were going right.

Attention to detail was one of their strategies for success that Van Halen used to achieve their vision of success. Eddie Van Halen, is a musician (read individual contributor), not a concert manager. Imagine the value of walking into the dressing room and looking for his bowl of M&M’s. If no dark and light brown, he eats and hand full and pays attention to other aspects of what he does best, like practicing his guitar. If he walked in and saw the yucky brown, where would his mind be? Would he be wrong?

No one can argue with their success—and it has more to with than just their guitar playing skills.  What indicators do you have to measure whether you are on track, whether your group is on track toward your vision of success?  Having these indicators saves you time to focus on what you do best.


Jonathan Shaver