Why brown candy matters

Eddie Van HalenRock star legend Eddie Van Halen became notorious for a clause in his contract forbidding the presence of brown M&Ms in the backstage candy bowl at his concerts.  Here’s the flip side of that story and why it matters.

aretha franklin performingCelebrities have had all sorts of random requirements included in their contracts over the years.  Aretha Franklin contractually insists that her hotel rooms must never be higher than the 5th floor, and that all air vents must be taped shut.

john kerryJohn Kerry, when appearing for speaking engagements, requires a recumbent (not upright) exercise bike.

Though in the heyday of big hair rock and roll, Van Halen’s prohibition of brown M&Ms was particularly singled out with disgust as the classic example of rock stars run amok with infantile delusions of grandeur. Most of those critics never found out what you’re about to read.

semi trucksVan Halen’s band traveled from venue to venue with a convoy of 9 semi trailers full of gear.  (When was the last time you saw 9 semi trailers of anything?)  Not surprisingly, their rider contract was dozens of typewritten pages long detailing the largest and tiniest technical requirements of their show, down to the amperage and placement of electrical outlets. The “M&M Clause” was placed in the middle of a contract so voluminous that it guaranteed any reader’s eyes to glaze over after the third page.

If the band rolled up to the next venue and found brown M&Ms in the backstage candy bowl, they immediately demanded a full line-item review of the entire rider contract.  Eddie Van Halen specifically buried the M&M Clause, because concert promoters who don’t pay attention to one part of a contract usually don’t pay attention to the rest of it, and resulting technical issues could be disastrous, even deadly.

When it comes to editing, details matter.  In fact, that’s what editing is – thousands of details.  As the editor, it’s our job to take care of myriad details, decisions, and problems before they become problems.

I have a standing offer with any producer I work with – I say that if they ever find a misspelled graphic leaving my edit bay, I’ll buy them a steak dinner.  It’s happened only once.

Now, chances are nobody’s going to go nuts if you put a track of music on audio channels 2 and 3 for a personal project.  But part of editing professionally is learning the best practices for any given project, and sticking to them so everyone knows that they can hand things off to you and know it’s gonna be done excellently, and done right.

And when you’re that good, who knows?  Maybe some day you’ll end up in a place where you can request the brown M&Ms removed from your candy dish.

Not there yet?  Here’s your roadmap.

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