The Difference Between Band "Buy-Out" and a Rider
A music promoter sometimes adds a band buy-out provision to a contract for a show in lieu of providing a certain service for the musicians. "Buy-outs" at shows are often used in place of the rider/catering, but sometimes musician buy-outs are used for things like accommodation as well.
The rider is a standard contract item, and other than actually playing on stage, it is usually musicians' favorite part of the show. Promoters aren't so crazy about riders, because it's not a fixed cost, and can vary greatly from one musician to another.
That's why a lot of promoters prefer buy-out provisions instead. Here's how they differ.
Costs Can Vary with Riders
With a rider, the amount a promoter will cover can vary from providing drinks, to covering the costs of meals, snacks, and drinks for the band and its entire entourage. Most show promoters are savvy enough to negotiate the terms of the rider before the show, to make sure it's clear that everyone is on the same page, and what the musicians expect. Obviously, the more popular musicians who draw in large crowds are in a better position to make greater demands.
A rider is usually where any preferences, dietary or otherwise, will be clearly spelled out with specific information. If a band member wants a vegetarian meal or has a food allergy, that would be covered under the rider.
But riders can go beyond basic food and beverage, and this is where costs can pile up for the show promoters. Dressing rooms, including furniture preferences, flowers, WiFi access and other creature comforts could be included. Needless to say, not every musician is really in the position to demand an elaborate rider, but promoters have to decide whether the ones who bring in a lot of ticket sales are worth the variable costs to keep them happy.
Rider Alternative: The Buy Out
For promoters, a buy-out arrangement is a much more cost-effective way to try to keep performers fed and soothed. Instead of actually buying whatever food, drink, and other amenities musicians demand, the buy-out is a lump sum paid to the band, so they can buy their own stuff.
Sometimes, musicians prefer this kind of arrangement, because they can get exactly what they want and because sometimes they come out ahead financially. If they're frugal, they might end up spending less on food and drinks than the promoter paid them for those costs.
Buy-outs are usually a better deal for promoters as well. It takes away the headache of having to shop for and coordinate all the things the band wants, and pay a fixed amount to let the band handle the purchases on their own. A bonus: With a buy-out instead of a rider, the promoter doesn't have to worry about the band finding fault with what's provided.
In many cases, the band is happy to have a gig that pays them, never mind demanding fresh flowers or designer drinks. But knowing what a promoter's standard contract usually includes is a good idea; if there are things the promoter would provide other bands, it doesn't hurt to ask. Just make sure you're not negotiating your way out of a gig by being too fussy.