The Real Story behind Van Halen’s Infamous “No Brown M&Ms” Rider

Artist Riders have always been an interesting point of discussion, offering an “inside look” into the secret life backstage for many famous bands and Djs. Although the requests hit every end of the spectrum from pompous and ridiculous (Kanye West recently asked for ” Imported and recut Versace towels” and  requested that that any chauffeur who drives him wear only 100 percent cotton clothes. “No man-made fibers.”) to hilarious (Diplo requests One Violin Player (to play while we eat our cheese plate), One Malawian Orphan, a 1983 G.I. Joe Storm Shadow Action Figure (New in Package), a dart board (with Nicolas Cage’s face on it) and a Short Wave Radio among other things); many of them are not very unreasonable at all.

One of the most infamous rider requests was the strange “no Brown M&Ms” request by Van Halen. While this may seem in line with some of the recent obnoxious artist requests, the method behind this madness was actually functional.  Since Van Halen was one of the first big bands to take their stadium show into secondary markets,  serious safety concerns regarding the power, staging, etc. became a big factor. The technical specs were extremely detailed in the rider, however David Lee Roth was concerned that promoters wouldn’t read it closely. So, the brown M&Ms were basically actually a “canary in a coal mine” that would alert them to check the other aspects of the contract more carefully.”

The “Brown M&Ms” Explanation:

Other interesting, weird and ridiculous Rider requests

Britney Spears: a framed photo of Princess Diana
Mariah Carey: needs a dressing room filled with with fluffy kittens, puppies and bunnies.
Mary J. Blige: Requested that a new toilet seat was installed at each venue before her arrival
Trent Reznor: 2 boxes of Corn Starch
Prince: Needs a doctor with a vitamin B12 shot to be on call at all times
Motley Crue: requested a schedule for local Alcoholic Anonymous Meetings, a 12 foot long Boa Constrictor and a jar of Grey Poupon
J. Lo: requests that her coffee is stirred counterclockwise
Paul McCartney: own’t ride in a limo with leather seats or allow for leather or animal print furniture in his dressing room.
Axl Rose: Wonderbread
Katy Perry: According to her “Priniciple Driver Policy”, driver may not touch her bags, open doors or “stair at the backseat thru the rearvieuw mirrow” (typos included)
Prince: Needs a doctor with a vitamin B12 shot to be on call at all times
Eminem: recently requested that Festival producers build a wooden pond for his “koi carp”