Strategic whims

I have been listening to this episode of This American Life. It begins by describing the famous clause in Van Halen show contracts that there must be M&M’s in their dressing room with all of the brown ones removed. This has long been held up as a cornerstone of rock star excesses but in actuality it looks like something quite strategic. They explain in the show that venue contracts are complex and long with many details designed to ensure that the show goes smoothly and is also safe. So, to get a reading on a venue prior to setting everything up, they included hidden in the contract a rider that was whimsical. If not followed, the contract could be broken with large damages going to Van Halen. But the point was not to break the contract but to ensure that it was read and followed carefully. In this respect, the M&M clause was a like a ‘canary in a coal mine.’ It was an earlier warning that the concert promoter might not be up to the task. See, there is insanity in whimsy. I’ll have to remember that if I ever get to ‘diva’ status.

3 thoughts on “Strategic whims”

  1. I may be reading this wrong, but have my doubts about the predictive value of the brown M&M clause. Wouldn’t it already be too late to do anything about the concert promoter by the time someone discovered that the clause was missed and there were brown M&Ms in the dressing room?



  2. But that predictive ability give the legal team the ability to scare the bejeezus out of the venue operator/promotor into sticking to the contract; and even then it may just be about eco gratification – it legitimises the band’s right to boss around the venue staff.  Iconic status or not, you’ve still got to go looking through the fine print to look for that and other possible ‘landmines’.


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