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5 head scratching backstage demands from famous musicians

When you’re famous enough to perform in jam-packed arenas filled with rabid fans, it’s not at all unreasonable to ask for a few perks and luxuries on tour. After all, when you’re used to the rockstar life of fast cars, champagne and mansions with olympic-sized gold-plated swimming pools, you don’t want to spend your time backstage in a cold, empty locker room.

That’s why musicians have something called a ‘rider’ when they’re touring: a list of demands with everything they need, ranging from stage equipment to snacks and beverages. A rider is also a legally binding contract, so if demands aren’t met, the artist won’t perform, but still gets paid. The website The Smoking Gun publishes the artist riders they can get their hands on, with artist demands ranging from outrageous to downright bizarre. Here’s a few of them!

5. Queen Latifah

Hip hop diva Queen Latifah’s artist rider from 1993 starts out with a list of pretty useful items, like snacks and drinks, crackers and cheese, some cough drops, a bag of breath mints, a jar of mayonnaise, and oh, a dozen Rough Rider studded condoms… When you start to wonder how these items relate to one another, it paints a disturbingly vivid and absurd picture of what’s going on backstage.

QueenLPhoto by: Spiralone

Also, Queen Latifah wanted a bucket of fried chicken, which was oddly stressed in the rider as NOT being for dinner purposes…Let’s just assume it’s unrelated to some of the previously mentioned items and call it a snack, because you obviously work up an appetite with this level of fan interaction.

Check the artist rider from Queen Latifah at The Smoking Gun

4. Van Halen

You may have heard the mythical story of the Van Halen band members trashing the backstage area because there were brown M&Ms present. This is actually a true story! But it wasn’t because they were bored, angry or suffering from a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, they had a good reason.

VanHalenPhoto: Sarah W.

For that particular tour, they carried a lot of high-end, big ass stage lights and equipment and quite a few of the arenas they played weren’t equipped to deal with all of those things or even had loading doors wide enough to carry them inside. In those days, a lot of promoters didn’t bother to read artist riders, so that’s why they added the M&M clause. Some of the crew members would arrive a couple of hours before the band, and if they saw people frantically sorting M&Ms, they knew they could they could safely carry and set up the equipment.

Check the artist rider from Van Halen at The Smoking Gun

3. Metallica

It’s interesting to see how this band has evolved in the past 30 years and the two published artist riders give a lot of insight into that. Their 1983 rider consists of a single page of actual rider, mostly stipulating the need for a case beer. The other two pages are a hand typed artist bio, explaining their humble beginnings and grounded personalities: “Becoming legendary to most musicians is a major dream and is only realized through much hardship and struggles. To ‘Metallica’ it came almost immediately.”

MetallicaMembers of Van Halen, and Metallica back stage during the Monsters of Rock Tour, 1988.

Check the 1983 artist rider from Metallica at The Smoking Gun

Their rider from 2004 has 24 pages with a lot more legalese, but also explaining the vital importance of bacon (typed in caps for extra emphasis): “VERY IMPORTANT THAT BACON BE AVAILABLE AT EVERY MEAL AND DURING DAY.”

And compare it to the one from 2004

2. Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop’s riders are by far the most hilarious, with heavy editorializing and fun requests, like this:

1 X KORG 2000 DIGITAL RACK TUNER. Digital in the sense that it works via an electronically generated number system, not digital because it only works if someone holds it together with their fingers


The actual model number of the amplifiers is 2203.

There should be six (6) knobs – which our guitar roadie Chris will personally count on arrival, (and trust me, he’s a very good counter I once saw him count four dozen packets of guitar strings in what seemed to be the blink of an eye, but was probably more like 20 seconds; I would say he is the closest thing we have in our touring party to a mathematical genius. Very good at Sudoku, and a genuinely pleasant chap to have around. On the other hand, he does have some rather unfortunate ideas on the descent of the panda. (Please see Monitor Requirements Rider for further details)).

Iggy_Pop_Memphis_2007Pop at Beale Street Music Festival, Memphis in May 2007.

The sound guy “must be a fluent English speaker and not afraid of death.” Iggy also needs a good Bob Hope impersonator backstage, as well as seven dwarves dressed in Disney-like fashion and the last pages are basically a pitch for a reality TV show called Dead Dog Island, “in case this rider finds its way into the hands of TV executives.”

1. Foo Fighters

Just like Iggy’s rider, this one from the Foo Fighters’ 2011 tour is a real work of art, one you will actually enjoy reading from cover to cover. Statements on the need for vegetarian food for some of the crew members include:

“Vegetarians. Yep. The Crusades didn’t rid the world of them so we have to pretend to care. Seriously, a baked potato is not an acceptable dinner. I will go Jeffrey Dahmer on anyone in range if I see one more baked potato set up in a dank meeting room in the rectum of a basketball gym. Also remember that vegetarian means: food that DID NOT have a face. It has/had a shadow but never mooed or clucked-unless it hung out with Rick James.”

Check the 2004 artist rider from The Foo Fighters at The Smoking Gun

To help the venue staff figure out the dos and don’ts of food, they’ve also included “Field Guide To Food Coloring Book And Activity Pages”, a hilarious coloring and puzzle book:

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