On The Road Series: The Rider - Introduction
Part One Of The Three-Part Series
ďItís on the RiderĒ is a quote Iíve heard more times than I can count. In many people it brings to mind images of large bowls of M&Mís, and more food than you can imagine. It also brings to mind, in many cases, the image of the egomaniacal rock-star whose status enables them to demand any whim or strange perk they might desire.
In this short series of articles, I plan to explore the mythical ďRider.Ē What is the rider, and why does it evoke grandiose images to the general public, and how should YOU as a touring professional view the rider? Iím also going to go thru the standard laundry list of things to think about as you create your rider. Some of these are ďobvious,Ē but itís amazing how often the obvious is not so obvious to the little Podunk venue you are about to load a semi trailer full of gear into.
Iím breaking this series into three articles. This one (the first) covers what a rider is, and what sorts of things the Artist ought to include in the rider for their own use. The second, covers technical things that really ought to be on the rider, and the third is very important; itís all the little tips about the rider that often get forgotten. Stay tuned for it.
At its most basic level, the Rider is simply an addendum to the contract between the person who is hiring the artist, and the artist. That person can be a local promoter, a venue, or anyone. The artist supplies the rider to the promoter and venue as part of what must be done in order to fulfill their end of the contract. In theory, this is pretty simple.
The ďrider,Ē when talked about as a mythological entity by ďnormalĒ people (I.E. NOT in the music businessÖ), is usually thought of as rock star whims and massive quantities of catered food. In reality, the stuff in a rider can be mostly broken into one of two categories. The first part of the rider is usually things the artist needs. The artist or band, as well as the crew, are traveling. In order to focus on their performance, they need certain things they do not have the time to deal with during a show day. Lets look at what falls into this first category (saving the second part for the next article).
FOOD falls into this category. If someone at the venue provides food for the crew, then you donít have to deal with it, and local people usually know how to get good food far more easily than an on-the road tour manager. USUALLY. The other use of food is to stock your tour bus or van. Making the bus stop to shop every day is a waste of time when you really want your people to be at the venue setting up. If youíre a band that shows up somewhere between noon and 5:00 p.m. to start load in, there are a slew of things that end up on a typical rider that donít necessarily make sense on the surface, but make perfect sense when you realize that things are CLOSED after load-out, or breakfast the next day. Typical food items falling into this category are: peanut butter, jelly, bread, and Cup-of-soup. They all keep well and are easy to deal with while traveling. For bus tours (or for a really tricked out van) with a fridge, milk and breakfast cereals are always a good bet. Deli trays are all well and good for the venue, but itís hard to get that stuff to keep without a fridge, and itís often times even harder to get it TO the bus when the band insists on using the deli tray meat ON the groupies. (This IS rock and roll remember?)
Sometimes (with club and small theatre tours) youíll get a venue that has a restaurant. Itís usually better to let them feed you than sticking strictly to the rider. Youíll also get venues with deals at nearby places, which also works well. And sometimes you get venues that just donít want to deal with the dinner issue. In these cases the common practice is to go for a ďbuy-outĒ where each member of the crew gets between $10 and $25 to just walk out the door to BUY their own dinner somewhere nearby. The buy-out deal is because many musicians are perpetually broke (buying too many guitar strings, or sending money to their sister in Temecula, or whatever) and they NEED that cash in order to eat. Itís a good thing to keep you and your crew fed.
Alcohol falls into this category of things desired on a day-to-day basis. When playing bars, there needs to be a way to get drinks for the band and crew without it being an unlimited tab at the bar. Bars donít tend to go for that, and as we all know, bands are legendary for HUGE bar tabs. Once you specify it on the rider, itís a known quantity. After the beer and alcohol runs out everyone is on their own.
What else besides food is in this category? A RUNNER is sometimes called for. On the road things break, people need to manage their lives. I canít count the number of times Iíve sent someone to a local lighting company to replenish my stock of tie-line, spare lamps, or to get a part for a moving light that was busted (and usually in those cases, Iíd have called ahead for it). In a few cases the runner is fair game to get laundry done, taking band members to a dentist for emergency fillings, or to go buy someone new shoes Ďcause the duct tape patch thatís been holding those shoes together for the last three months finally failedÖ Once you park the bus for the day, (remember itís the band and crews home) you donít want it leaving the venue. A runner is a great way to handle these miscellaneous errands.
Hotel rooms can fall into this category. You may thinkÖ Well, the band lives on the bus. Why do they need a hotel room? First, many bands travel in vans, and need a place to sleep. Secondly, many smaller venues donít have showers, and taking a shower after a long sweaty packed show is pretty much mandatory for being able to live together on a bus or van. In the case of the bus tour, drivers donít tend to sleep on the bus, as itís too noisy during the day, so they demand a hotel room as part of their contract with you when renting the bus. NoteÖ This means one of the things the runner does is to take the driver to his or her hotel room, and donít forget to have them pick the driver up at the end of the night!
And speaking of the busÖ Those tour busses are 48 feet long. Add to that a 16-foot trailer (which is the size of the box, and does not include all the associated hitch hardware). Five or so feet of space to maneuver, and you need 75 or so feet to park a bus. Specify how much parking space you need on the rider so you can actually park at the gig.
Some other examples include: The size of the guest list. You DO want some of the special people you know to be able to get in to see you play; the fact that you are selling Merch, and the space that you need in the club to set it up; your video/photo policy. You donít want EVERYONE to bring a video camera to the show, do you?
Perks also fall into this category. The more famous you are, the more you can demand and expect in this category. It follows that the higher the standard of living someone has, the more it will take to keep them comfortable and feeling in their best form for performing while on the road. Perks can be just about anything, from a groomer for the artistís dog, to, yes indeed, having someone to pick out ALL the brown M&Mís (you didnít think Iíd leave it out did you?)
Be sure to come back to read the next installment. Itís all about the second part of what belongs on the rider; the technical things you really want to have to make sure you can do a great show for your fans. The third installment will be all of the little tricks that get forgotten in the process of writing a great rider, and the philosophy of how you should USE the rider.
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