In today’s media-heavy landscape, the information transfer results in a rapid, sometimes distorted, communication. A celebrity filled culture seems to be the leader in defining the new urban legend. However, as with all rumours, there is usually a level of truth.
Whether you devoutly read Perez Hilton or are equally oblivious believing the latest ‘Twilight’ phenomenon is a astrological movement, I am confident you have one time or another been privy to celebrity gossip, or heard the sensationalized stories of celebrity demand. Over one water cooler or another, celebrity culture and gossip has likely become the hot topic. So why pre-tell reference such trivial details in a business editorial?
The Infamous Tale of the Brown M&M – Van Halen’s Pop Culture Urban Legend
The Back-story: American rock sensation Van Halen is the 19th best-selling band/artist of all time, selling over 56 million albums in the U.S. alone. Arguably, the key to the band’s success was not only their musical talents, but their business savvy.
Whilst continuing to build their fan base, the band chose to expand their tour schedule to smaller, more intimate, venues. With this it was determined that additional safety measures were needed to be imposed – for the large scale productions that the more inexperienced venues may not be apt to fulfill.
In the effort to predict and protect the band, a new clause was added to the contractual agreements. Embed in a multiple page contractual document line listing all requirements, a provision which requests a bowl of M&M’s be available backstage upon arrival with no brown candies. Was this a quirky request or a practical insight in business?
Courtesy of Smoking gun, David Lee Roth shares, “We’d pull up with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors — whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through. [...] So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl . . . well, line-check the entire production.
Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening.”
Although theoretically unrelated in traditional business practice (how many executives can make such outlandish requests to an employer!?!), there is an incredibly valuable lesson to all aspiring entrepreneurs. A business person who may still be in the growth phase counting every last penny, unlike the abundance of celebrities as previously mentioned, still has the responsibility to protect themselves and all business partners with detailed contracts.
The moral of the story, pay attention to details and cover your bases. Avoidable mistakes with potentially catastrophic results which otherwise can be dodged by taking the time to review the details. Hire experts, protect yourself, and read (or create) the fine print; learn from others and apply the practice. Think outside of the box, just like Van Halen!
The rumour was a high maintenance demand; the reality is a genius business move.
Holly Cybulski, Editor-in- chief
 Recording Industry Association of America