The Weirdest Backstage Riders

For many, traveling the globe as a touring musician is the ultimate dream. You get to see the world, play to adoring fans night after night, and live in the lap of luxury, enjoying the glamour of backstage green rooms and VIP hotel suites. What's not to love?

Well, sadly, the reality is that for many musicians, touring can be a real pain in the neck. Not only does it mean barely seeing members of your family and spending years on the road living out of a suitcase, budgets mean that tour itineraries are tight, and that instead of finding time to explore the glamorous cities you pass through on tour, each place becomes indistinguishable from the last, a never-ending carousel of anonymous suites and waiting rooms.

Therefore, as a way of ensuring some much-needed comfort, artists on the road provide concert organizers with a "rider," a brief (usually) document that explains both the technical requirements of each act on the bill, and what the talent and their entourages require to make their time backstage comfortable and conducive to putting on a good show. Sounds reasonable, but then again, not all musicians are known for being reasonable — in fact, many have a reputation for being downright difficult.

Mariah Carey

There's only one thing more enduring about Mariah Carey than her seasonal classic "All I Want For Christmas Is You," and that is her reputation for being an out-and-out diva, even if she's on the cuter, cuddlier end of things in that regard. And when it comes to Carey's backstage rider, she certainly lives up to her image.

According to a copy of her rider acquired by The Smoking Gun, Carey's demands for her backstage area begin with some pointed specifics. "PLEASE NOTE THAT 16-OZ. PLASTIC BOTTLES OF EVIAN ARE THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE BOTTLES OF WATER FOR THE DRESSING ROOMS," before heading off a list of drinks and snacks that begins with a bottle of chilled Cristal champagne.

So far, just as expected, though Carey's demands over the years haven't always remained within the realms of possibility. One Christmas when performing in the U.K., Carey reportedly asked organizers to furnish her with 100 white doves, which she planned to release on stage, and 20 white kittens. The latter request was refused on health and safety grounds, according to Marie Claire. However, Cary did get the exact model of Rolls Royce she had asked for, so at least that's something.


Matching Maria Carey when it comes to the size of her entourage and the exactness of her backstage requirements is Beyoncé. The "Crazy in Love" singer has a very specific set of culinary demands, the kind you would expect from an artist known for always looking flawless: a "large turkey deli tray," as well as a selection of fresh fruit, per The Irish Independent. Cunningly, Beyoncé also requests a bottle of champagne, but specifically the Ace of Spades brand, which is owned by her husband, Jay-Z (per The Metro). That's one way of keeping things in the family, eh?

But Beyoncé also has a few more, let's say, eccentric requests, including the demand that members of the crew must only dress in 100% cotton garments, that the toilet seat in her dressing room must be replaced with a brand new one before her arrival, and that the toilet paper provided must be red, according to The Huffington Post.

Another notable demand from Bey's rider is that under no circumstances can any Coca-Cola products be allowed backstage. Why? Because the singer's sponsor, PepsiCo, might have something to say about it, that's why.

Pharrell Williams

N.E.R.D. leader and Neptunes producer Pharrell Williams has been at the top of the pop game for what feels like forever, peddling irresistibly feel-good party tunes that resonate with a mass audience. (Honestly, can you believe that "Get Lucky," the Daft Punk global smash featuring Pharrell, came out way back in 2013?)

And Pharrell's riders do tend to reflect the party lifestyle his music resonates. In 2009, Esquire reported the "Happy" singer requested a mind-boggling amount of backstage liquor, including 20 crates of Grey Goose vodka, 20 of Bacardi rum, 15 magnums of Perrier-Jouêt Belle Epoque champagne, as well as a group of backstage belly dancers and a Rolls-Royce on standby. (Let's hope the drive comes before he cracks open the Grey Goose.)

But of course, Pharrell isn't on this list just for his list of luxuries: he's on it because as Vice reports, one thing he always requests backstage is a framed photo of the astronomer Carl Sagan, whose iconic 1980s space documentary "Cosmos" Pharrell claims to have loved since childhood. "When I look at that picture I realize how lucky we all are," Pharrell told "Today," perhaps revealing the real inspiration behind his Daft Punk collaboration.

As The Smoking Gun notes, Williams is so keen that his dressing room be adorned with the image of his great scientific idol that the demand actually appears twice in his rider from 2015, just to be on the safe side.


If reports are believed, simply accommodating pop icon Madonna and her sprawling entourage is a herculean task in itself. According to Yahoo Entertainment, at the time of Madonna's "MDNA" tour in 2012, her entourage reportedly stretched to around 200 people, including bodyguards and private caterers but also a yoga instructor and Madonna's personal acupuncturist.

But if her entourage already seems enough to cause concert promoters a headache, her rider demands look likely to provoke a full-on migraine. Per the same source, before each performance Madonna expects her backstage area to be bedecked with roses, with each stem cut to exactly six inches, while all the pre-existing dressing room furniture has to be shipped out, to make room for her favorite pieces which she brings from home especially. She also requires 20 international phone lines in her dressing room, though why she can't just turn on roaming on her cell is anyone's guess.

"Madonna has probably the longest list of requirements of any of the world's music stars. She expects things to be just right or it puts her off her stage show," said an inside source (via Yahoo).


It might be tempting to assume that Angus Young and AC/DC, his squad of hard rockers, are still as hard-partying as they were back in the day, especially as their music continues to successfully plow the same musical furrow to enjoy both commercial success and critical acclaim alike.

But as recent riders have shown, the rockers who once sang about "Sin City" have toned things down of late, which might in fact go some way towards explaining their incredible — and, it has to be said, unexpected — longevity. A 2008 AC/DC tour rider obtained by The Smoking Gun reveals that the band now requests just one case of bottled Heineken beer per show, which is only to be delivered backstage after the show has started.

More surprising, however, is that the aging guitar band also requests three oxygen tanks with masks attached, perhaps to help the previously heavy-smoking Young and company to recover from their high-voltage performances.

Van Halen

Perhaps the most famous backstage rider in rock history comes courtesy of Californian axe-wielders Van Halen, whose run in the 1980s saw the band with the world at their feet, playing some of the most outlandish rock shows of all time to huge audiences all over the planet.

In an interview posted on YouTube, Van Halen's David Lee Roth explained their tour rider's famous clause banning brown M&Ms: "Many years ago, it was part of Van Halen's contract as we toured through the arenas in the '80s that there would be no brown M&Ms found in the backstage area, or the promoter would forfeit the entire show at full pay. This was touted wildly and widely as simple rock star misdemeanor excess and being abusive of others simply because we could. ..."

But in fact, Roth explains that the ploy was a way of making sure that concert promoters had properly read the rider — which ran to more than 50 pages – as the complicated stage setup included the pioneering use of enormous 850 par lamp lights. That meant that the show required a huge amount of attention to detail to ensure the safety of both the band and crew. "If I saw brown M&Ms on the catering table, then guaranteed the promoter had not read the contract rider and we had to do a serious line check," Roth claims.

So that's the legend suitably explained. Now, if only Roth could share the reasoning behind another request, for "One (1) large tube KY Jelly" ...


Canadian electronic producer Joel Zimmerman, better known by his stage name Deadmau5, is one of the biggest names in dance music, having steered his feel-good brand of EDM dance floor fillers high into the Billboard charts on countless occasions over a two-decade career. With such success under his belt, it's only to be expected that he might come to expect a lavish reception backstage when he's on tour.

However, a musician best known for appearing in public wearing a huge metallic mouse head isn't exactly going to be conventional when it comes to his rider. As Zanda Wilson notes in a 2016 Musicfeeds post, alongside the prerequisite beer order (Deadmau5 likes beer of the light Mexican variety), is a request for two whole bottles of shower gel, and — for reasons that haven't been explained — a five-foot-high inflatable animal, species unspecified.

Following the revelation, a fan on Twitter asked the masked producer how often promoters actually gave in to his eccentric demands for a life-size inflatable, to which Deadmau5 responded: "like... 3 times out of 10 i'd say," which seems like a solid average when you think about it.


Formerly rap's biggest troll, the emcee born Marshall Mathers and otherwise known as Slim Shady would probably be at the top of most people's lists when it comes to musicians who probably have ridiculous backstage riders. However, even back in the scandalous days in 2003, when Em toured the world with both D12 and 50 Cent, the extensive food list was generally healthy and the amount of alcohol requested was notably moderate. (Compare Em's half-case of Heineken (per The Smoking Gun) to the mind-numbing amount of booze Pharrell Williams demanded). However, the total of 10 glass ashtrays the rapper and his crew requested across three dressing rooms give some clue to how they liked to unwind after entertaining the masses.

But the rapper finally raised eyebrows in 2011 when it was revealed that when performing a festival show in Northern Ireland, Em made a rather unusual request: that the promoter builds a specially-designed wooden pond backstage, and fill it with koi carp — luxury fish, each with a value of hundreds of dollars (per NME). Whether the request was fulfilled remains to be seen.

The Rolling Stones

There are few names in rock music history bigger than The Rolling Stones, who are still going, somehow, after more than 50 years in the business. And what's most remarkable is that the band doesn't show any sign of slowing down as far as partying is concerned, as a recently leaked rider reveals.

On their 2015 world tour, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and their similarly evergreen bandmates stipulated that the hotel bars in each city had to stay open throughout the night after the show, saying: "illegal or not — the place better figure out a way to keep the booze flowing" (via Esquire). The Stones also requested a set amount of cigarettes, and for windows to be blacked out so that passersby can't see the veteran rockers enjoyed their latest bout of all-night partying. They also require two "smartly dressed" hostesses and enough room to set up a traveling snooker table, according to Ultimate Classic Rock.

But among all this rockstar excess, there is one surprisingly humble request: that before every show, guitarist Keith Richards is supplied with a large amount of the traditional British dish shepherd's pie, made to his own recipe. According to the Toronto Star journalist Marion Kane, the beef and potato pie is such an important pre-gig ritual for Richards that on one occasion when the crew tucked into the pie before the rocker had his fill, the show was plunged into jeopardy, with Richards threatening: "Where's the rest? Get some more of it or I don't go on." Sounds like one heck of a recipe (courtesy of WCSX).

Iggy and The Stooges

The Stooges' Iggy Pop is, in many ways, the ultimate rock 'n' roll survivor. Back in the day, the man born James Osterberg Jr. was a genuine hellraiser, whose blood-smeared, shirtless performances looked like those of one living on the edge, whose hard-living lifestyle could be the end of him. Somehow, though, Pop has managed to get to his 70s against the odds, to become punk rock's greatest elder statesman.

There's a lot that is legendary about Iggy, and his rider is, of course, among them. Rather than a typical dry list of technical requirements and backstage requests, Iggy's rider reads like a piece of art in itself, a silly and witty piece of writing especially made to make promoters (and those who read leaked copies of it on the internet) laugh.

Among the weird riffs about rejecting gear used by Insane Clown Posse, the need of a monitor man "who is not afraid of death," and heavy-duty fans "so that I can wear a scarf and pretend I'm in a Bon Jovi video," are several more bizarre requests, including a Bob Hope impersonator telling "jokes about gold and Hollywood and Bing Crosby" and a copy of USA Today, with — quote — "a story about morbidly obese people in it" (via The Smoking Gun).

In an addendum to the rider, a page is also included outlining the writer's idea for a bizarre reality TV show named "Dead Dog Island," the details of which you can possibly imagine for yourself.

Foo Fighters

Foot Fighters had Iggy and the Stooges' masterfully inventive rider in mind when they penned their own version in 2008: "Here you are again reading the famed Foo Fighters Hospitality rider. Aren't you the lucky one? It's not as funny as the Iggy Pop rider, but it packs a wookiee [sic] sized punch" (via The Smoking Gun).

The rider is, as you can possibly tell, full of self-conscious snark, but is also rather sweet in its own way. "The silly items like gum and candy bars make a difference to these boys that are far from their families and friends," a rider from 2000 declares, and it turns out Dave Grohl and the gang are, at the end of the day, just after some hope comforts. For Grohl himself, this means a platter of "stinky cheese," but also includes a ban on non-vegetarian soup starters. "Meaty soups make roadies fart," the earlier rider reads. In the 2008 rider, they separate their demands by day: If they are playing on a Tuesday or a Friday, they want some new socks and underwear; every Sunday, they need some new deodorant. Rock 'n' roll, eh?