What Is a Rider in a Musician's Contract?
A rider grants certain perks to an artist.
Do you want a special color of candy in your dressing room? Are you picky about what water you'll drink during a concert? If you want to be sure that your contracts include all your favorite little extras, you can put these demands in writing as riders to your contracts. Riders are part of the legal contract so they must be honored. Of course, you have to have the star power to pull it off.
What Is a Rider?
Riders refer to the little extras a band receives from the promoter of a gig, usually—but not always—in their dressing room. Typical riders include things like food and beverages or a pre-arranged amount of money that the promoter will provide to the band to buy themselves a meal and some drinks. A rider might also include information about special dietary requirements or preferences of the band. It will usually include specific information, such as the number of meals that will be provided and at what times.
Riders can go beyond the basic food and beverage components to include things like the number of dressing rooms a band requires, what kind of furniture the band would like in the rooms, what kind of flowers they want in the dressing rooms, and even more.
Riders also cover some additional financial terms not included in the contract. At the very least, you'll want to make sure you're compensated for reasonable out-of-pocket costs, and riders can also address advertising and promotional terms.
If the promoter is putting you and your group up in a hotel, you can specify terms for those rooms and the number of rooms required. How many dressing rooms will you require at the show site? Do you need security?
Are you the star of the show? You can include a demand that you receive star billing on all circulars, programs, and advertisements that are made available before and during the event.
Do you want complimentary tickets for your friends and family? You can include terms for this.
Who will have access to the performance area while you're setting up and doing sound checks? If you want to control this, you can do so in a rider. You can also make sound requirements for equipment that will be necessary when you perform, and place restrictions on where and how the show will be mixed. You can set a schedule for your performance that includes the amount of time you'll require for setup, sound checks, and meal breaks. You can even state when you're willing to have the doors open so the audience can begin streaming in.
Don't forget insurance provisions and cancellation terms in the event something goes radically wrong on your end or on the promoter's end that prevents the show from going on as planned.
Artists have come up with some demanding riders over the years that have made it into the public eye.
- One of the most infamous riders was Van Halen's in 1982. They insisted on bowls of M&M candies with all the brown ones removed.
- Jennifer Lopez gained notoriety when she did a cameo in a video for a charity. She insisted on white flowers, white furniture, and a white decor. She also insisted on specific Cuban foods. There was a large outcry over her demands because she appeared to be disrespecting the charity she was working with.
- Paul McCartney, a well-known vegan, requests that all transportation vehicles have cloth seats instead of leather. There can be no leather or animal skin furniture or decor in his rooms and, of course, all meals served must be completely vegan as well.
- Mary J. Blige asks for a brand new toilet seat in every venue where she performs.
What Is the Purpose of a Rider?
Although some riders can be over the top, they serve a practical purpose, too.
Sometimes an eccentric request is put in as a test. If the promoter finds it and follows it, it shows that he read the rider carefully and most likely intends to abide by the contract. If he misses or ignores it, he could also be overlooking other essential contractual demands, such as security or lighting.
Many riders are designed to make the artist more comfortable. They spend most of their waking hours in the green rooms at venues when they're on tour, so the comforts they demand are intended to make them feel more relaxed and ease the strain. It's an opportunity to get comfortable while traveling.
Limit your rider demands to only the absolute essentials unless you're a major star or the promoter moved mountains to secure your participation in the event so you know he really, really wants you. Food allergies might mean that you may have specific dietary needs, so demands along these lines would be considered essential—although if you're not a superstar or highly in demand, you might want to include an explanation as to why you're making the demand.
If you're making really ambitious demands like certain-colored furniture or imported food, you should expect that you'll have to deliver very profitable gigs. Otherwise, you'll earn a reputation for being difficult and high maintenance and you'll lose out on future opportunities.