How To Create A Hospitality Rider

Knowing how to create a hospitality rider is crucial for anyone hosting a big name for a show. It’s the little things that count during their time on the road.

Working how to create a hospitality rider makes sure that venues and tour staff have any food, beverages or items an act would like to have before and after a show to aid them during a tour.

The rider itself is never the same between artists and the demands will vary from act to act. This can be for both in the dressing room and on the tour bus.

As years have gone by, there have been cases where a rider has caught headlines for some truly outlandish requests – especially from a household name. So just what should you know when learning how to create a hospitality rider?

How do hospitality riders work

The idea behind a hospitality rider is simple. It’s a list of items that a star requests to have when they are on tour. This list can constitute any number of things including:

  • Food (snacks or particular ingredients)
  • Drinks/Beverages
  • Miscellaneous items (perfumes, cutlery etc)

Primarily, the hospitality rider focuses more on providing meals and snacks for the artist rather than anything for the show itself.

With that in mind, it’ll be up to venue staff to ensure that the items are ready for the tour headliner before they arrive at their destination.

Doing so aids their preparation and keeps them going in the build-up to their performance. However, the contents of the document may continue once the act hits the stage.

Hospitality riders are also designed to cover anywhere that the star might be. So it means that it can very well cover both after the show and whilst they are heading between venues.

In some cases, the rider might be substituted as cash or vouchers to give the act a bit more flexibility in what they want. Known as a buyout, this gives the stars themselves a chance to sort themselves out when the time comes.

Who creates a hospitality rider?

When you think of a rider covering a star’s demand, you would think that the list comes from the stars themselves. But this isn’t always the case. Instead, their tour entourage takes care of it – usually the tour manager.

These subtleties are something that has been noticed by Dr Gabi Kielich, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Huddersfield, who has studied the different nuances found in music. When it comes to the rider, Dr. Kielich has seen that the tour manager is the one who gets the ball rolling.

“The usual practice was that a member of the touring party, usually the tour manager, would send the rider,” Dr. Kielich elaborates. “The list of items would have previously been set in accordance with the artist.”

Once this burden has been placed on the tour manager, it then shifts the onus on them to ensure that the rider is kept updated and changes are sent through accordingly to the venue.

“In the days leading up to a show, the tour manager would communicate with the promoter/venue hospitality regarding any items that were no longer necessary or any changes that needed to be made,” explained Dr Kielich.

With lists already decided and sent through well in advance, it means that the promoters and venues have plenty of time to get stock ordered before their arrival.

The varieties in a rider

But don’t think that the rider is just a list of demands. Or that it is something that has to be followed verbatim. Indeed, the items on the rider change more than you may think.

For starters, the promoter or the venue will have some say as to what they can bring in on the day. This was something noted by Dr. Kielich as she noted that “the promoter would typically make or suggest changes according to the budget”.

Alongside that, the demands may vary between where the rider is applied to. Many think that knowing how to create a hospitality rider is something only relevant on the stage. However, riders can be applied to life on the road too. If staff request items for the tour bus, the bus staff will then have to cater to these needs.

But these needs are often different particularly as travel times can be quite strict when moving from show to show.

“Bus stock is a different category than rider items for a dressing room,” Kielich reveals. “In the rider, items for the dressing room are identified and another section may detail requirements for bus stock.”

What this shows is that the touring party often go to great lengths to ensure their star is catered for and that riders aren’t just necessarily for the start of a show.

Mistakes to Avoid When Making a Hospitality Rider

Learning how to create a hospitality rider is one thing. Executing it properly is another. On the odd occasion, there will be times when mistakes are made leading to an unhappy arrival. But what sort of mistakes can happen?

Not updating the rider

One of the biggest faux pas when using a rider is failing to use the most updated version. The list can change at any given moment and failure to notice any changes can lead to disaster.

If the hospitality staff stick with an older version, it means that a star’s demands might have changed leaving them to feel ill-prepared or not in the right frame of mind.

However, it’s a common mistake that many can make and one that Dr Kielich has seen happen on occasion in the industry.

“One mistake was that an outdated version would be inadvertently circulated. If not noticed, this sometimes led to the wrong items being purchased if the contents of the rider had changed from one version to the next,” she reveals.

Misinterpreting a request

Another thing that sometimes happens is miscommunication between the two parties. Sometimes, a request might be left quite ambiguous leaving venue staff to read between the lines. Sadly, making assumptions can lead to the wrong items being bought.

It isn’t always the fault of the promoter though as noticed by Dr Kielich who notes that these errors occurred “due to the different interpretations of an item listed or because the exact item wasn’t available”.

When these cases happen, the venue staff try to think on their feet and come up with the best solution possible even if it might not match the exact request made.

Famous musician hospitality riders

As you can imagine, the best way to learn how to create a hospitality rider is to look at examples from the past. And these requests can become very particular as you move higher up the star chain. But what are some of the most memorable hospitality rider requests around?

Jack White

Few rock stars are revered for their sound quite like Jack White. However, the White Stripes frontman has been known to throw down some strange rider requests. This included a leak from a 2015 show in Oklahoma. In the leak, he specifically requested step-by-step instructions for making guacamole using finely chopped onions and Serrano peppers. A unique list for a modern rock god.

John Mayer

Some stars like to stay fresh before a show. None more so than guitar virtuoso John Mayer. Several of his riders have been leaked showing that he requested four toothbrushes, mouthwash, mint-flavoured toothpaste and a pack of mints. It kept him seriously fresh before heading out to play a two-hour shred session.

Van Halen

On stage, Van Halen knew how to wow a crowd. However, before they hit the fireworks, they were known to lay down some stringent rules. One of the most notorious notes from their 1980s heyday was the removal of all brown M&Ms from their candy bowl. If it wasn’t done, then they wouldn’t play. It’s something that David Lee Roth revealed was a test to ensure that the promoters were following instructions.

Final thoughts

As you can see, knowing how to create a hospitality rider plays a big role in keeping acts happy. It’s a case of ensuring the artist has everything they need to get the mindset for a show. Venues and promoters know what they are in for too. Especially as tour managers get in early to make sure the right items are there. It goes a long way to making the entire day a successful venture. That’s why learning how to create a hospitality rider is a worthwhile experience no matter who your star attraction is.

Special thanks to Dr Gabi Kielich

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