Date: September 1, 2005
Where have all the “wild things” gone? Artists’ contract riders have, for the most part, lost their pizzazz. Gone are the days of the excesses, of the Van Halens who wanted all their brown M&Ms taken out…or they wanted all green M&Ms. (There seems to be a couple of different versions of this legend within the industry.) “That was a joke anyway,” said Scott Pang, International Creative Management. “He just wanted to see if they would do it. The day of the wild riders are of the past. Now they all read about the same. It is boiler plate language.” Others agree.
Howie Silverman, Paradise Artists, said bands are much more business savvy these days. They have woken up and want to go “tit for tat” with the buildings and promoters. “For example, if the building is charging a specific fee on the tickets, then the band is putting a fee back on the tickets the venue gives to their employees,” Silverman said. “They are waking up and finding out what’s going on. Some riders try to put a stop on any kind of ticket scalping.” Most of the items asked for in riders now address the technical aspects of the show — lighting, ticketing, advertising, security, permits, licenses, transportation, etc. Yet there are some unusual specifics still thrown in.
Silverman said sometimes a rider might include an off-the-wall line just to make sure the promoter is reading it. “I’ve had people call me and say that was pretty funny,” he said. The super acts can still ask for anything. “I’ve been backstage when the Rolling Stones were playing,” Pang said. “They require a lot of holding rooms, but that is a very, very unique situation. They are the Rolling Stones, for God’s sake.” Pang said when his company was touring Bugs Bunny on Broadway, Bugs would have his own dressing room with carrots stuck in a champagne holder. But that was mostly for the press and he wasn’t even sure it was in the rider.
Michael Marion, general manager, Alltel Arena, North Little Rock, Ark., said he sees the excesses disappearing as well. But he does have an unusual request from Kid Rock when he plays the venue. “As part of his act, on stage right, he has a cage with a dancer dressed in a very small bikini,” Marion said. “We have to hire four dancers locally. We call the local gentleman’s club and get qualified dancers.” He has had to do this three times, but, he said, Kid Rock really draws the crowds and that is “more of a show production type thing” anyway. Marion thinks the excesses of the 1970s and ‘80s are pretty much a thing of the past. He remembers having to dress up in Kiss make-up when he was co-promoting that act’s big reunion tour in Tupelo, Miss., in 1995. Also, while at Tupelo, crooner Michael Bolton wanted raspberry ginger ale, which Marion had to get out of St. Louis.
Catering is the one area where there are a variety of differences, yet requests here are usually reasonable. Occasionally, there are requests for specifics. Classic rockers Blue Oyster Cult, toured by Paradise Artists, want a “good red wine” and “good white wine.” William Morris Agency’s artists list occasional requests for imported beers as well as domestic beers. But Pang said liquor requests have been cut way back. “More and more acts are playing more fairs and festivals, and they can’t have alcohol there anyway.” Something new Marion has seen is the request for video games for children that are on the road with the band.
“We are all growing up and getting older, I guess,” he said. “Everybody is pretty much reasonable and normal. Some people are now even taking their own caterer out on the road.”
Rapper Eminem’s rider states that it is “preferred in all cases” the facility buy out the dinner, with a “standard buyout at $20 per person” for 10 people. “This saves time and trouble as well as avoids any whining about food, such as when it’s served and how good it is or is not,” the rider states. Eminem’s rider is fairly short in comparison with others booked by William Morris. He asks for beverages such as Snapple Kiwi-Strawberry, lemonade drinks and “other fun flavors.” The rider also contains several food tray requests including, “one fresh vegetable and cheese tray with hummus, pita bread, crackers, for eight people.” It adds, in all caps, “DO NOT MAKE IT INCREDIBLY HUGE.” Then, the rider states that, “All leftover items are to be wrapped or stored and moved to Eminem’s bus during Eminem’s set by catering personnel.” No waste. Some acts do request that no paper plates, paper cups, or plastic utensils be used for the food.
Some, including classic rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd, specifically request ceramic plates, bowls and mugs for dinner. The band also specifically requests 16-ounce colored Solo cups for cold beverages, as well as two USA Today newspapers and two local newspapers. Health consciousness is also obvious in toda’s riders. Songstress Alicia Keys wants a quart of Silk Vanilla Soy Milk and a quart of Chocolate Almond Milk. She also requests assorted Vitamin waters, Throat Coat Medicinal Tea, honey, chunk white tuna, whole wheat bread, Nutri-Grain Bars, nuts, and dried fruits. Country band SheDaisy designates a certain type of food on each day of the week. For example, Oriental on Monday, Fish and Poultry on Tuesday, and Italian on Sunday. It also requests Special K and Honey Teddy Grahams for after-performance snacks.
American Idol Ruben Studdard wants a healthy breakfast such as bagels, milk, yogurts and cereals. He wants lean turkey breast meat and no pork or beef. But, for the production office, the requests include a bag of sweetened banana chips and a bowl of candy with Mr. Goodbars and Cinnamon Mentos. Country staple Dwight Yoakum wants two whole uncut seedless watermelons and a selection of plants in his and his band’s dressing rooms. And oldie-but-goodie Davy Jones requests three bottles of wine and one bag of Almond M&Ms.
Interviewed for this story: Michael Marion, (501) 340-5660; Scott Pang, (310) 550-4000; Howie Silverman, (805) 646-8433