Anyone who is involved with the management and coordination of events probably has some familiarity with contracts. These helpful pieces of paper guarantee the booking and payment of a venue, the requirements and duties of caterers, and the assurance of special guests or performers that they will show up and do their special thing. What some may not be familiar with are the addenda to said contracts, generally known as contract riders. These are bits that have been added onto a contract in order to modify it without having to rewrite it entirely, and it is in the contract rider that the fine print regarding the most vital bits of information are written. It’s generally focused on aspects of production, hospitality and transportation, but may not be limited to these, and there are usually penalties that can ensue from not following them to the letter.
Contract riders may go into detail about the exact pieces of equipment that band members need in order to put on the perfect concert, or the specific kind of tea that a guest speaker needs to drink forty-three minutes before they go onstage for optimal vocal projection There might be a type of adapter needed for overseas electronics to be able to function with your area’s power system, or certain props that may be required to assist with a guest’s disability. In any case, some event staff may think they can overlook aspects of a contract rider because they don’t believe that the demands listed therein are of significant importance, but the success of an event may hinge on that smattering of words– not following them can not only be damaging to the event itself, but also to the people involved.
For example, no-one wants their star performe to go into anaphylactic shock because of an oversight of a clearly marked request: if someone has put into their contract rider that there are to be absolutely no peanuts in any of their meals, it’s probably for a very good reason. In the past, I have asked that food aversions and allergies be clearly stated and explained in their contract rider, so that everyone involved in the event is made aware of them and there’s no risk of health problems. Less physically damaging, but by no means less important, is the oversight of a required piece of equipment that may connect all of the lighting or sound for the event. How many events may have tanked because one tiny plug wasn’t procured as needed? Chances are the number is higher than you think.
Keep in mind that some contracted guests/performers will work special requests and food preferences into their contract riders as a means of exerting their power/status, and that’s fine: they’ve agreed to be part of your event for a reason, and if pulling all the brown M&Ms out of their serving bowls will help you fund-raise, then you can just smile, indulge the petty tyrants, and gripe about it later. I remember being incredibly excited to work at my first music event, and ended up spending the entire time ensuring that the backstage area had a constant supply of imported Scandinavian glacier water, organic beer, and chocolate- covered almonds. It was enthralling, really. In all honesty, I’m of the firm belief that some people put these details in their riders to see if the event staff has actually paid attention, since not providing the “little things” could mean that an inattentive manager has let other, more important details slip through. The bottom line? Pay very close attention, read through the entire contract several times, and get other staff members to do so as well–a few extra pairs of eyes can help ensure that no details are missed.
The thing about contract riders is that adherence to them isn’t merely important, it is vital. This isn’t just to avoid potential health issues or total equipment failure, but also from a contractual standpoint: remember that if any aspects of the rider are not met, then the contracted party is generally within their rights to terminate said contract immediately, in full authority, and with total payment owed to them. If there are things in the rider that you are absolutely unable to provide, they must be discussed with the party’s management reps well in advance of the date so amendments can be made. If everyone understands and agrees to these changes, try to get their agreement in writing, or even via email so you have a solid trail of communication in case of any legal issues. If they don’t agree, try to negotiate a middle ground that everyone can agree upon, and get that in writing too.
If I could offer one piece of advice regarding contract riders and events, it’s to have an extra runner (person) available at the guest/performer’s beck and call on the date(s) of the event. Every staff person has their own duties and responsibilities, and taking them away from something they need to focus on in order to take care of a guest can throw a very well-organized event into chaos. Items can get misplaced in other areas, stray bottles of beer might get lost in the back of a fridge, and having an extra person around who can scramble to gather loose ends together has been of huge benefit every time.
Be thorough! Make a checklist for yourselves that numbers all of the requirements dictated by the rider, and cross them off twice: once when they’re procured, and once when they’ve been delivered and set up at the venue. Double checking everything is a surefire way to ensure that all runs smoothly, and gives you a solid reputation for efficiency, responsibility, and care.