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Don’t Lose a Customer as Big as Van Halen Because You Missed a Brown M&M

2 minute read

Did you know that the American rock band Van Halen had a 'no brown M&Ms' clause in their concert rider? Although it may not sound very Rock 'n’ Roll, this clause was actually a clever business move that served as an indicator of whether the concert promoter had followed the provisions detailed in the contract.


Now published on The Smoking Gun, a repository of exclusive documents obtained from government and law enforcement sources, Van Halen’s rider featured a Food Requirements page with a ‘Munchies’ section. The rider reads:

  • Potato chips with assorted dips
  • Nuts
  • Pretzels
  • Twelve (12) Reese’s peanut butter cups
  • Twelve (12) assorted Dannon yogurt (on ice)

Requesting the removal of the brown M&Ms was unsurprisingly viewed as a ridiculous demand – one that was included just because it could be. In reality, Van Halen needed a quick way to tell whether the concert promoter had been diligent enough to read and follow all of their requests.

If the band went backstage and found brown M&Ms in their dressing room, they would immediately know that a 'serious line check’ was necessary. Considering that Van Halen’s performances were technically complex and somewhat risky, the brown M&Ms indicated that safety measures may have also been overlooked.

In other words, a few brown M&Ms could prevent not only a slight technical malfunction during the show but life-threatening situations. Moreover, they could result in the venue forfeiting the concert at full price, as they would technically be in breach of contract.


Van Halen’s story shows the importance of paying attention to detail and truly listening to the demands of your customers. It proves that something as simple as a bowl of chocolates could cost you your client.

In addition to this, the M&M clause can serve as inspiration for you to come up with your own brown M&M – that is, something that serves as quick verification and enables you to perform quality control.

As Engage Customer’s Editor, I had the opportunity to learn about this clever business move at the 2023 Customer Engagement Transformation Conference. While Van Halen’s M&M clause dates back to the 80s, it is still relevant today.

Learn more about the 2023 conference in my post-event piece or register for our upcoming Customer Engagement Summit if you’re interested in discovering similar stories!

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