No Brown M&Ms: Stars' Backstage Demands

Singing for thousands of cheering fans, earning up to $1 million for a night's work — you'd think it would be enough to keep today's music stars happy.

But musicians routinely demand more, often attaching detailed lists to their performance contracts for extras like a full-time masseuse, $200 bottles of champagne and tofu hot dogs.

Mariah Carey likes to have a tea service for eight people available in her dressing room — and insists that only Poland Springs water be used for the tea. But for drinking water, she likes another brand: "Please note that 16-oz. plastic bottles of Evian are the only acceptable bottles of water for the dressing rooms," reads the backstage rider to one of her tour contracts.

Oher requests range from the bizarre — Barry Manilow's contract stipulates that members of his fan club will show up at 11 a.m. to decorate his dressing room — to concerns about space. Whitney Houston's contract warns, "This show carries a large entourage. ... We will need all available rooms in the building."

The band ZZ Top, whose members are known for their abundant facial hair, cuts straight to the chase by making it clear the group expects to be treated as a "worldwide superstar artist."

The Smoking Gun, a Web site that posts original documents on the Internet, has obtained backstage riders for more than 100 musical acts, from tours over the last decade, and put them on the Web for all to see.

"Everything in the entertainment industry is controlled to the nth degree. ... I think people like to take a peek behind the manufactured façade," says Andrew Goldberg, one of the reporters who digs up the documents for the site.

Soy Milk and Flintstones Vitamins

The riders are often highly specific about the type of refreshments that should be served backstage. For her 2000 tour, Christina Aguilera's contract required organic milk, Flintstones vitamins and malt-flavored Carnation Instant Breakfast. The singer also asked that no Styrofoam be used, "due to the state of our environment."

The Dixie Chicks, who recently played to 60,000 fans at the Houston Astrodome for a cool $1 million, have relatively tame demands: fresh flowers, breakfast cereals and mineral water. The group's three members decided to take care of luxury items themselves, buying their own dressing room furniture, for instance, rather than relying on what the venues would provide.

They say it worked out to be cheaper, since the venues would charge rent for the furniture. And, as group member Natalie Maines points out, referring to the lead singer of Aerosmith, "You don't know what Steven Tyler's done on that couch, so you want your own."

Maines admits it seems extravagant to travel with all their own creature comforts. "It's only because it's very difficult to be on the road for six months," she says. "You're in a different place every day, and they're quite dirty and ugly in a lot of ways."

As for Aerosmith, their 1997 rider calls for two large communal dressing rooms that must be secluded from each other. The dressing rooms must be "carpeted and dressed in such a fashion as to conceal the industrial locker room nature of the environment." The band also requires an artist hospitality room for 12 people, a VIP guest room for 50, and a meet-and-greet room for 70.

Some of the clauses are so peculiar that they hint at dark incidents from the past. Country rockers Alabama will not perform if there are live animals backstage. "If there is an animal backstage, Alabama will not perform," their rider states. The Smoking Gun was unable to find an explanation.

The No-Nos

Stars often specify at least one thing that will absolutely not, under any circumstances, be permitted. Aerosmith demands no Wonder Bread, and Cher specifies that wines by Kendall Jackson do not meet her standard for "fine wine." The Beach Boys ban the world "oldies" from all promotional materials.

Van Halen once famously demanded that promoters provide a bowl of M&Ms — with the brown ones removed. The band said that was a trick to make sure promoters read the contract carefully. If they showed up and found brown M&Ms, they would know the promoter might have been sloppy about more important things like sound and lighting.

But not every artist is on a runaway train of self-indulgence. The rider for country legend Johnny Cash is humility itself: All dressing rooms must have a table and chairs, a clothes rack, hot and cold running water, a toilet, paper towels and soap, and a mirror, "preferably full length."

This story was originally broadcast Aug. 2, 2002