Business Advice From Van Halen
Dan and Chip Heath for Fast Company:
Van Halen buried a special clause in the middle of their contract. It was called Article 126. It read, “There will be no brown M&Ms in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.” So when Roth would arrive at a new venue, he’d walk backstage and glance at the M&M bowl. If he saw a brown M&M, he’d demand a line check of the entire production. “Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error,” he wrote. “They didn’t read the contract…. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show.”
I have been aware of this for years but it is always a good reminder. Having attended a show on just about every Roth era Halen Tour, I can vouch that they were always some of the most impressive and deftly executed rock shows ever staged.
That said, many other bands and performers use similar methods to ensure not only technical perfection but also give them an easy out of their contracts with a venue should anything not be just so. People often look at this stuff as arrogance but, as you can see above, most of the time it is simply to ensure that all parties are paying close attention to detail.