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Revealing hidden information

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In this charming and perhaps true story, David Lee Roth explains why Van Halen’s contract required the absence of brown M&M’s in the dressing room. It’s a clever story of one way to monitor performance in a world where monitoring and information are not free. (HT: Heidi Moore [2])

UPDATE: Bill, a Cafe reader and a man with some experience in the field, provide some perspective:

Roth was mistaken about when and where the concert that destroyed the gym floor was. It was here in Pueblo, at the University of Southern Colorado. And the promoter was Barry Fey of Feyline, and he was at the top of the heap in the industry. Here’s an excerpt from Barry’s account:


Roth is correct that the floor suffered major damage from the weight of the stage, but it wasn’t due to Barry Fey not reading, or understanding the rider. Barry was used to dealing with Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, so he knew a bit about massive theatrical rock productions. If I remember correctly, Fey also provided the stage, and it is essentially four-feet-high scaffolding with a plywood deck built on top as a stage floor. I also don’t remember if the stage legs were set on 18-inch plywood pads, or if it was just the steel pads of the scaffolding strait to the floor. When we build on dirt, we use the plywood pads, but I didn’t work the Van Halen concert. Either way, the damage was caused by no one realizing that weight needed to be more uniformly spread over the rubber floor. It is possible that the gym floor would have been damaged no matter how much they spread the weight of the stage. Van Halen has been claiming for years that the brown M&M clause was simply to make sure the rider was being read, but (as George pointed out in the comments) the fact that it never changed discredits that assertion. My belief has always been that it was there because they were young rock-and-rollers enjoying wretched excess. I have no problem with that (if they pay for the damage they cause), but his assertion that the floor was damaged because Barry Fey didn’t read, or didn’t comply with the technical aspects of their rider, is simply not believable.

Bill adds:

I don’t know how production riders were assembled back then, but these days, they are usually separated into chapters, and the hospitality part, which covers the dressing room details (brown M&Ms, what kind of food, spirits, etc, that the Artist prefers) would be a separate chapter from the technical aspects. Also, because of the physical limitations of the Pueblo venue, I can state with near-certainty that Feyline and Van Halen’s tour manager exchanged multiple phone calls negotiating what Van Halen would be willing to do without, in order to accommodate those limitations, which further discredits the notion that Barry Fey was unaware of the rider’s technical requests.