The PORT Perspective

How a Single Brown M&M Could Cancel Your event production


Stories Of “Misdemeanor Excess” of Celebrity Riders

Celebrities from all types of entertainment frequently make the news for the “riders” or checklists they have regarding their personal preferences for their need to have things “just right” for them, including anything from room temperatures, brands of bottled water, specific meals (and ingredients!), and almost anything else you can think of, including many that are not appropriate to publish here.

There is one “legend” from the music industry, however, which provides a great illustration of the value of checklists that initially sounds as vain and petty as some of the other riders we’ve seen. This one seems even more absurd when we find out that if this specific rider was not met, their contract required that the show be canceled with the full cost of it borne by the promoters! As it turns out, it was directly related to a major potential safety issue with their lighting, here’s why:

Van Halen’s Mysterious “No Brown M&Ms” Directive

220607-how-can-a-single-brown-m&m-can-cancel-your-event-1aThe band was Van Halen, and for their 1982 tour the band had a rider for David Lee Roth that required that specifically requested that M&Ms would be made available, “but with all the brown ones removed”. At the time, it generated the typical publicity of an “out-of-control celebrity”, but instead was very intentional in regards to a specific safety issue.

At the time, Van Halen was the first band to take 850 PAR lamp lights around the country on tour and the concern was that many of the older venues in big cities built in the ’50s and ’60s could not accommodate the giant-size production the band was touring with. Fear of the venue not having enough load-bearing capacity or adequate power supplies was directly connected to potential safety issues for the band and their crew.

If the band found a SINGLE Brown M&M in the mix on the catering table, they would then take that as a sign that the promoter had either not read the rider completely or were careless about it, and then it would induce a line-by-line check of every single item before they would be able to take the stage to ensure there would be no chance of accidents or other safety issues.

While David Lee Roth reportedly played his part to the max and also threw a fit and trashed the room after finding the offending brown candy, it was a brilliant way to ensure a checklist was read and followed by strangers you did not know days before you arrived in town.

David Lee Roth explains in his own words the genius behind the “No Brown M&Ms” story.

The Importance of Checklists For Your Events

Checklists have proved valuable in a variety of fields, such as medicine and corporate business, as well as for event production. They help keep you organized and on task, keep you on schedule ahead of and during a show, track progress, ensure nothing slips through the cracks, and help your employees understand exactly what is expected of them. 

Bahre- 2008-110Event production is a series of coordinated mini-projects, many of which are interlinked. All of the steps within these mini-productions, including everything from green room setup to AV equipment, must be executed precisely and in a specific order to ensure a successful event. Checklists are crucial when it comes to reducing errors and documenting accountability for post-mortems and reviews. 

What goes on your checklist will be highly specific and must be tailored to your event, but here are some tasks to consider:

  • Layout a timeline both for preparation and for the actual event
  • Designate someone to set up the green room
  • Ensure the stage is clean before the performer(s) take the stage 
  • Designate someone to escort the act on and off the stage 
  • Identify delivery times and locations
  • Create the stage layout 
  • Find a space for a band’s gear 
  • Meet with stagehands, backline techs, audio techs, and lighting techs to ensure everyone has enough space and tools to do their jobs
  • If the show has any pyrotechnics, ensure there are tanks on-site and that you have the proper permits and clearances 
  • Provide scrims or banners if requested 
  • Inventory the green room food items 
  • Ensure the green room is at the proper temperature and other ambient requirements, such as lighting and candles, are fulfilled
  • Set up your mixer or soundboard
  • Determine which lighting you’ll need such as color-changing LED lights, fresnels, or floodlights
  • Ensure there are proper trash receptacles 
  • Check microphones
  • Check green room non-food supplies, such as towels and soap 
  • Ensure the stage is large enough to accommodate the equipment 
  • Have contingency plans for emergencies or other unforeseen events.

After the event, be sure to undertake an evaluation to determine what worked well and what didn’t. This information will help inform your planning when it comes to future productions.  

Most importantly, creating and following a detailed checklist will ensure you put on a safe, entertaining, organized, and all-around exceptional event!

Port Lighting is now “PORT”, Your Premier Event Lighting & Architectural Lighting & Event Partners

We’ve shortened our name to adopt what our clients have been calling us for years, and to recognize that we’ve been doing FAR more than lighting for many years now. Contact us for a free consultation to enhance or improve your venue, facility, or event.





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