(One of my favorites: B.B. King’s request not to have dinner supplied. This could be for any number of reasons. I like to think it was B.B.’s response to hard-earned success: “I’m through eating rubber chicken in the dressing room. When I’m done with this gig, I’m gonna take my walking-around money someplace classy and buy myself a lobster. No, make that two.“)
I’ve been to the Rider Archive before. But this time I found myself asking some obvious questions that had never occurred to me.
Anyone who knows the music industry is welcome to enlighten me on these, using the Comments section.
Or, if you don’t have any firsthand knowledge, I welcome wild and scurrilous speculation:
1. How common is it for a promoter to fail to live up to the terms of the rider?
And, related to that …
2. What happens if an artist doesn’t get what they want, to some greater or lesser degree?
I’m led to believe that tour riders can specify all kinds of things, from technical details of sound and staging to the flavor of bubble gum in the dressing room.
That means a promoter could violate a rider in any number of ways, large or small.
It could be anything from failing to hire enough security and support staff … to not sufficiently preparing the stage in some way … to stocking the backstage coolers with RC Cola instead of Pepsi.
Now, if the promoter does something that truly imperils the band or audience, or makes a professional stage presentation impossible, the band would presumably refuse to play.
(That promoter probably wouldn’t be in business long, either.)
But if the promoter breaks the contract in some other, lesser way … well, that’s another question:
3. How much blatant defiance of their backstage rider will a performer accept before he or she refuses to take the stage (or get off the tour bus)?
This might vary from performer to performer: Some are divas, others are troupers.
It might also vary from era to era. In the druggy, pampered ’70s, American cheese on the deli tray instead of Muenster might have been enough to trigger a Nigel Tufnel-style flip-out. I’m guessing (based purely on gut) that today’s major performers have at least a little more tolerance for not getting exactly what they want.
Still, canceling a concert can cost a performer a fair amount of money and, maybe, fan loyalty as well.
So how much will they put up with? The wrong brand of beer? A lousy catered dinner — or no dinner at all? No dressing-room Wi-Fi? No backstage runner with a van, ready to take band members on any errand they want?
I am guessing that most bands will put up with just about anything, because the show must go on.
If they truly get shafted by a promoter, they’ll probably just make a mental note never to work with that person again. They may also take their frustration out on the audience with a half-hearted show.
Which leads to a final question …
4. Was that shitty, uninspired Santana concert I sat through in 1993 so lame because the promoter insisted on loading the deli tray with pressed turkey loaf?