They were known for making outlandish demands in their contracts with concert promoters. Van Halen in particular is known for having insisted in their contracts that "a bowl of M&M's be provided backstage, but with every single brown M&M removed." They further stipulated that, if the band ever did discover that the bowl had any brown M&Ms in it, they could cancel the concert and still get full payment. Wow! Talk about demanding!
However, in his book, The Checklist Manifesto, author Atul Gawande points out that there was actually a pretty good reason for having that clause in the contract. The absence of those M&Ms could be seen as a matter of life or death. He quotes from lead singer David Lee Roth's memoir:
Roth explained [that] … "Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets. We'd pull up with nine 18-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. The contract rider read like a … Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function."
So just as a little test, buried somewhere in the middle of the rider, would be Article 126, the no-brown-M&Ms clause. "When I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl," [Roth] wrote, "well, we'd line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you'd run into a problem." The mistakes could be life-threatening … In Colorado, the band found that the local promoters had failed to read the weight requirements and that the staging would have fallen through the arena floor.
In Jesus’ famous parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, he has the Master commend the faithful stewards by saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” In Luke’s version (Luke 16), Jesus says, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." All of a sudden, Van Halen’s request doesn’t look so ridiculous, does it?
For my part, I am learning that no matter what God asks of me, no matter how seemingly small the task, it is imperative that I give it my best. If I do not show myself trustworthy in the small areas, how can I ever hope to handle the larger ones? So remember, be faithful in the small things, in the small ways, and with those whom the world considers small people. It may appear that no one is looking; but I assure you that God is!
Source: Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto (Metropolitan Books, 2009), available at http://books.google.com/books. More information can also be found at: http://www.compliancebuilding.com/2009/08/03/compliance-van-halen-and-brown-mms/.