Riders and Runners

terry charles | behind the stage | may 2017

You've all probably heard stories about the things artists ask for when they perform at arenas or theaters. Some are pretty basic while others get very detailed and tricky. When a concert tour comes to town they send us a rider about a month in advance. There are usually many changes or additions to the rider in that month and many can be the day before or day of the concert.

A rider is essentially a bible of what the show will require or request while it is here. It includes all details and requirements for things like ticketing, catering, security, production, stage size, sound, lighting, marketing, number of trucks coming, dressing room requests and number of staff members needed for front of house and back of house. Front of house means in public areas while back of house means backstage or near the dressing rooms.

We certainly have gotten some interesting requests in riders over the years. We have had specific requests for certain fabrics or leather on chairs and in specific colors for chairs or furniture or any color other than a prohibited color mentioned. We once got a request for Hanes brand white t-shirts and white underwear. Another time a performer requested pureed steak!

Sometimes the requests are so unique that we are not able to accommodate them because we can't get the product. Other times we will cross out a request and refuse to provide it because we believe it to be inappropriate. That rarely happens but it did several years ago for a young performer.

In the 1980s Van Halen famously insisted in their rider that no brown M&Ms should be found backstage at their concerts or the promoter would forfeit the show at full price. David Lee Roth insists this demand was inserted into the rider to determine whether it had been read in detail.During the past concert season we received one of the longest and most complicated riders we have ever received for catering. It was 13 pages long, just for catering! Some of the requests I'm about to list are not unusual in of themselves, but the sheer amount of them was pretty crazy. Here's a sample: iced green tea, Gold Peak Sweet Tea, Gold Peak Unsweetened Tea (no lemon), Twining English Breakfast Tea, assorted cold cereals (some sugary, some healthy), Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino, two Seagrams Ginger Ale, small bowl of berries — mostly raspberries, 1 Sauvignon Blanc from Malborough Region NZ - Kim Crawford, 12 disposable coffee cups with lids (not styro), 8 cans Pellegrino sparkling (no flavors), 2 - Cab Sauvignon, 2010-2014 Napa Valley only, 1 Bushmills honey whiskey, 1 tin Altoids original, New York Times newspaper, 1 bag Larabar bites - double chocolate or chocolate macaroon, 1 bag Ricola original cough drops - no lemon or honey.

The items I listed are a tiny fraction from the long list of specific items requested. It takes a major shopping trip to get all of those things. There is also a long list of foods served on a buffet, beer, wine and just too many other items to mention. Sometimes the tour will put unique items in the rider that we catch and question and the tour tells us they just wanted to make sure we read the rider!

In addition to the rider, we also have runners on the day of a concert. A runner is someone who is available to run out and get whatever the tour needs. We typically have three to six runners for a concert and they could do anything and everything from taking someone out to do laundry, take an artist shopping to the mall, take an artist's kids to do fun activities, go out to buy food for the bus after the show or pick up an artist at the airport. Sometimes when a tour has been here before they might have had pizza or cheese curds from a restaurant they loved so the runner will go out to get that food.

All in a day's work when it's concert day!


Terry Charles is public relations manager for Green Bay-based PMI Entertainment Group. He's all about media relations, publicity and social media for the Resch Center Complex, Meyer Theatre, Green Bay Gamblers Hockey and other events produced by PMI. When not at work, please don't hit him with your car as he runs and bikes around the Green Bay area. You can follow him on Twitter at @TCCharles.

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