Why do rock stars require green M&Ms in their riders? It’s actually for a very smart reason. When I wrote about how Robin Williams’ rider helped the homeless, so many people asked me about the green M&Ms, I thought I’d give you the story here.
I first heard about this non-urban legend right when I started at William Morris Agency (now William Morris Endeavor). It’s the largest talent agency in the world, over 100 years old, and quite an interesting place for an Indiana farm boy to start working 3 days after graduation. I remember on one of my first days at work, a guy with a white beard walked past. I whispered to the woman at the desk next me, “That guy looked just like Kenny Rogers.” She gave me a funny look and whispered back, “That’s because he is Kenny Rogers.”
One of the first managers I met was a guy named Scott Brickell, who managed Audio Adrenaline at the time and later Mercy Me, among others. He’s a big dude, probably 6’5. He leaned way over the ledge near my desk and said, “Hey, kid, you know the story about why green M&M’s are in riders, right?” I’d booked bands and promoted concerts for four years in college, but I’d never seen that in a rider before. I’d heard it was one of the more famous weird demands that hair metal bands did to be obnoxious, which is what I said to Scott.
“Nope,” he replied. “The bands have nothing to do with it. It’s the road manager that puts it in.”
Because road managers have an inate thing for green M&Ms?
“No, it’s a trigger. A road manager puts that in the rider to see if the concert venue reads the rider. If they pull up to a new city and arena, and walk into the green room and see a big bowl of green M&Ms sitting there, the road manager knows he’s working with people who are detail-oriented and have read and followed the rider. (A rider is the list of technical and personal requirements for an entertainer.) But if the road manager walks into the green room and sees a bowl of regular M&Ms, or worse, no M&Ms at all, he realizes he’s not working with detail-oriented people, and he’s in for a long day. With concerts, you’ve got all kinds of rigging and lighting and sometimes pyrotechnics. You can’t afford to work with people who are bad at details. If they got the M&Ms right, chances are they got the other things, right, too.”
This requirement was made famous by Van Halen (check it out on Snopes), although they went with the more boring brown M&Ms. One time Van Halen showed up at the venue and the venue hadn’t provided brown M&Ms. According to the band, they hadn’t read the rider, and the floor of the venue couldn’t hold the weight of their staging, causing $80,000 in damage. David Lee Roth flew into a rage, and caused $20,000 damage on his own. Newspapers picked up that he caused $100,000 damage because he didn’t have brown M&Ms.
Just for fun, what outlandish thing would you include in your rider? (And remember, please keep it classy, San Diego, this is a family show.)