What is a Rider in a Musician's Contract?

A Rider Grants Certain Perks to the Artist

Three Young Pop Musicians in the Dressing Room of a TV Studio
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Want a special color of candy in your dressing room? Picky about the water you'll drink during a concert? Want to be sure your contracts include all your favorite little extras? If so (and if you have the star power to pull it off) you can put those demands in writing as riders to your contracts. Riders are part of the legal contract, so they must be honored.

What is a Rider?

Riders refer to the little extras a band receives from the promoter at a gig, usually 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 a band to buy themselves a meal and some drinks. The rider may also include information about special dietary requirements or preferences of the band. The rider will usually contain specific information, such as the number of meals that will be provided and at what time.

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 more.

Outrageous Riders

Over the years, artists have come up with demanding riders that often make it to the public eye. Here are some of the most well known:

  • 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 white decor. She also insisted on specific Cuban foods. There was a large outcry at her demands because she appeared to be disrespecting 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 the rooms. All meals served have to be completely vegan as well.
  • Mary J. Blige asks for a new toilet seat in every venue where she performs. 

What is the Purpose of a Rider?

While some riders can be over the top, they serve a practical purpose too. Some eccentric requests are put in as a test; if the promoter finds it and follows it, it shows they read it carefully and are abiding by the contract. If they miss or ignore the rider, they could be missing other essential contractual demands, such as security or lighting.

Many of the riders are to make the artist more comfortable. Often when they are on tour, they are spending most of the waking hours in the green rooms at venues, so the comforts they demand are to make them feel more relaxed. It's an opportunity to get comfortable while traveling. 

Unless you are a major star, limit your rider demands to only the absolute essentials. For example, food allergies may mean you may have specific dietary needs. You also want to be sure you're compensated for reasonable out-of-pocket costs. If you're making ambitious demands, like certain-colored furniture or imported food, you need to be able to deliver very profitable gigs. Otherwise, you will get a reputation as difficult and high maintenance and lose out on opportunities.