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Visual Management... the Van Halen way

Van Halen in Syracuse, NY at the Carrier Dome, 10-9-1982

Contrary to what the media reported (yes… just one more example of “fake” news), Van Halen's legendary “no brown M&Ms” contract clause was not the act of prima donnas, but rather a brilliantly quick and simple way of determining whether promoters had thoroughly read and complied with the technical specifications of their contract.

As Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth explained in his autobiography: “Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets. We’d pull up with nine eighteen-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.

So… to ensure that the promoter had read the entire contract, Van Halen included a few nonsensical requirements that were intended to serve as the proverbial “canary in the coal mine”, warning them of potential danger / problems. The best known of these was, of course, the legendary requirement for M&Ms to be provided, with the warning: “ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES”.

Page 40 of the 1982 Tour Van Halen contract

As David Lee Roth explains: “So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl … well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you're going to arrive at a technical error. They didn't read the contract. Guaranteed you'd run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening.

Read an 11 page extract of the actual 1982 Van Halen contract.

Go to the source

Even if you're already familiar with the reasons for the “no brown M&Ms” contract clause, it's definitely worth spending five-and-a-half minutes watching this video of David Lee Roth explaining the logic:

No Brown M&Ms at Eddie Van Halen's Wedding

The “no brown M&Ms” contract clause was so effective that Eddie Van Halen modified it slightly for his June 2009 wedding to Janie Liszewski. Because his fiancé had selected the colors green and white for their wedding, Janie confirmed that there were only green and white M&Ms provided at the wedding. Would you like to bet that everything else she wanted was correct?

Janie Liszewski and Eddie Van Halen’s wedding photo.
Source: Weddbook.com