Celebrity Rider: (n): a list of requirements, requests, or conditions that a performer or celebrity expects in addition to their appearance fee.
Celebrity talents always provide an interesting and unique experience for our team, especially when they come with a ‘rider,’ or a list of requests. The celebrity brings their talent to the show, and our producers bring their own talent in deciphering what is a need and which requests are simply outlandish for the particular show.
The event producer reading the rider needs to know how to interpret what the talent wants versus what they need, and then negotiate with the talent’s agent. If the speaker is only going to be at the show for two hours with no access to a green room, do they really need an iPod hookup and a 24-pack of Coke? Maybe not. But the pack of water bottles that was also requested is a little more realistic.
A lot of the items on a celebrity rider are designed to replace the hassles of constantly being on the road. All of us in the event industry understand that while life on the road is exciting, it can also be rather unpredictable. Providing comfort for the talent while also working to avoid wasting money on frivolous items is an important role of an event producer.
One great example: Comedians always have a stool on-stage – a backless, standard stool. But have you ever actually seen the comedian sit down? Think hard. We bet you haven’t. But over the years, you come to realize that the stool is essential for the comedian, not so they can sit down, but to hold their water bottle and to serve as a “home base” or anchor point for their show. It helps keep them comfortable even in an unfamiliar setting.
But not every request is as simple as a stool on stage, so what do you do with the “wacky” demands? While some of them might seem easy to ignore, they might actually signal something more important in the rider. Van Halen’s famous demand was always M&Ms, but “ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES.” Why was the request so specific? It actually held a deeper meaning: If Van Halen received their bowl of M&M’s as requested, they’d know that the producer took the time to read the rider. If the M&M’s were delivered incorrectly, though, Van Halen might suspect that their more important requests might have also been ignored.
So, the key with entertainment riders is this: know what the talent actually needs versus what it wants and save yourself some time and hassle. Have someone with experience interpret the rider. And don’t forget that $20 K-Mart stool if you have a comedian coming.