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Miscellaneous - Special Rider Blues

  by Jon Rogers

published: 9 / 7 / 2014

Miscellaneous - Special Rider Blues


In his 'Hitting the Right Note' column, Jon Rogers looks at the excessive demands of rock band riders

When you are negotiating your new job try asking for extras like a bottle of Jack Daniels to be provided or a bowl of a particular brand of sweets with the blue ones taken out. Or maybe your own private room, painted white and furnished with fresh, white flowers. Perhaps a table tennis table? Just see how long it takes to be laughed out of the room. But when it comes to bands and artists these 'extras' - commonly known at the rider - are normal contract stipulations (in fact they are not really extras at all - just all part of the deal). Usually, along with the artist's fee for playing, they will put in the contract that other requirements need to be catered for. In what other professional line would this be acceptable? Certainly, considering the nature of the work certain things should be provided along with the fee for playing. Liquid refreshments will be needed, along with some food, some towels and so forth. That all seems perfectly reasonable and necessary. And to be fair, anyone would perhaps expect higher standards if you were playing Wembley Arena compared to the local pub down the high street but the music industry is awash with tales (perhaps in some cases unjustly so) of outrageous demands made by the 'talent' on their rider. But why do we all seem to accept this as standard practice in the music world and even how did the notion of the rider arise? After all it will be the fan, buying the ticket, that will stump up the extra cost in increased prices. Ego, it would appear, has a lot to do with it. That notion of having to keep happy the artistic talent, so they can perform their wonderous magic to the best of their ability. The bigger the star, the more outrageous and outlandish the demands. Hence the rise of the notion of the 'diva' (be it male or female). If you're some local pub band you do not really have the clout to throw your weight around and make demands. You probably can if you're at the status of the likes of U2, Madonna or Mariah Carey. Their egos must be fed, so if they want kittens provided so they can cuddle them after the show then they get kittens. It is no doubt a status thing. Outrageous demands are made simply because they can make them. No one though ever stops and says no though. No one in the band's entourage is going to question it; they are all too aware of their meal ticket and probably do not want to lose their job over it. Likewise for the artist's management. The staff at the venue are not going to question it. They want the performer to play at their venue (and perhaps get a return visit at a later date) rather than the artist chose a rival. After all, if you were the artist and there was a choice of one venue where your every whim was catered for and another where you just got the basics which one would you pick? There is though perhaps a more serious side to the rider, as one particular rock band noted some wayward demands were made deliberately to see if the organisers were professional or not. In their view, promoters who did not pay attention to the rider probably did not pay too much attention to more serious matters like safety, such as was the equipment earthed properly and was the lighting rig secured? Basically were the people they were dealing with professional and would they pay attention to the details? It would seem though that that attitude is perhaps the exception rather than the rule. For some it would appear that perhaps frivolous requests on the rider grow out of the sheer boredom and tedium of being on the road. Being a rock 'n' roll star might seem like the height of glamour, playing to hundreds or thousands of adoring fans night after night. The reality though is rather different, especially if you are 'paying your dues' and slogging it out touring round the country. It is not much fun cramped up in the back of a Transit van, speeding down the motorway. Not much sleep. Waiting around for hours at the venue, soundchecking. Then doing exactly the same the next night. And again. And again. One way to inject a little fun into the grind - make up a few demands for the rider. Well, it is something to do to pass the time. Really though there is no need - apart from items which are necessary - for the rider at all. Isn't it about time the industry came together, stopped pandering to the whims of stars with inflated egos and just said no?

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