Van Halen and Brown M&M's

Dean Gonsowski | June 15, 2018

Contracts are a polarizing thing. Some view them as a way to cure insomnia. Others, who fashion a trade around their creation/analysis, find them to be intricate expressions of risk allocation. Apparently, even rock and rollers like contracts. Who knew? 

Seeking to promote attention to detail, 80’s legendary rock band Van Halen began using a unique method to ensure compliance: their “Brown M&M” contract rider. I’ll give you just the CliffsNotes version here, but the video of David Lee Roth explaining their rationale is particularly riveting. 

The gist was this… Van Halen was very progressive in their stage setup and they needed to bring in (literally) tons of lighting and staging equipment. This complexity created a concern that the promoters wouldn’t read the contract, which would lead to surprises, delays and, potentially an on-stage calamity.

So, in the middle of their lengthy contract rider (where any violation would presumably cause a forfeiture), they added a clause that stated: M&M’s (WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES)”

According to Roth, if there were brown M&Ms in their dressing rooms, the band would doubt the entire stage setup. Seeing the brown M&Ms would cause Roth to go into a rage, often “theatrically” destroying the dressing room for effect. Only then did he feel like he’d made his case about attention to detail.

“I came backstage. I found some brown M&M’s, I went into full Shakespearean ‘What is this before me?’ … you know, with the skull in one hand … and promptly trashed the dressing room. Dumped the buffet, kicked a hole in the door, twelve thousand dollars’ worth of fun.”

It’s easy to imagine that today’s technology would help prevent hapless promoters from incurring the wrath of Roth due to erroneously served snacks. Fortunately, while real humans still need to understand the implications of added and/or deleted contractual provisions, there are technologies that make it easier to see those differences. 

At Heretik, contracts are the focal point for an artificial intelligence system that facilitates fast, accurate, clause-by-clause comparisons, making it easier for attorneys to diagnose differences amidst potentially thousands of terms. 

So next time you have volatile rock-star and a 50-page contract, make sure you leverage the latest technology to help avoid a headlines-making rampage.


Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin


As a former litigator/GC/AGC, Dean has a proven track record of accelerating the rapid development of high growth, venture backed software companies (such as Relativity, Veritas, and Opentext). He is an industry recognized evangelist and thought leader with the proven ability to recognize nascent market trends.

Subscribe to stay up to
date on all things Heretik!