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What You Can Learn From Van Halen About Managing Your Money (No, I’m not kidding)

By March 2, 2015 No Comments
By Ben Sands

Today we describe it as “diva” behavior.

Those random, seemingly outrageous, demands that superstar entertainers include in their contracts.

For example, Beyonce requires a “baby-proof” dressing room, set to a temperature of 72 degrees and stocked with JIF peanut butter, jalapeños and a box of Special K, among other snacks.

Katy Perry takes it a step further.

In her 45-page rider she requests that her dressing room include: two “cream-colored egg chairs,” a “perspex modern style coffee table” and a refrigerator “with a glass door.”

But you’re not surprised, are you?

The truth is, these inane requests don’t really shock us anymore.

But back in the mid-1980s, this kind of behavior was less common (or at least less publicized).

And so, in 1984, when it was revealed that the rock and roll band Van Halen (one of my favorites of all time) had a clause in their contract mandating that “no brown M&Ms be found backstage,” they were vilified as petulant rock stars.

But that characterization was grossly unfair.

They weren’t being divas, they were being smart.


Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth explains the rationale of the “brown M&M clause” in his autobiography, Crazy From The Heat.

To paraphrase:

We were the first band to take huge productions to smaller markets. We’d pull up with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, at the most.

The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, so many human beings to make it function.

To ensure our safety, we included Article 126: “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.” 

We did this so that when we would walk backstage, if we saw a brown M&M in the bowl, we would know we had to line-check the entire production. We knew that they didn’t read the full contract and it was guaranteed that we’d find a technical error.

Sometimes the error would threaten to just destroy the show, other times it would be literally life-threatening.


The lesson I take from the Van Halen story?

In a complex world, smart, simple systems are critical to both our success and our protection. 

I recently recorded a live, online workshop during which I share the system that I use to successfully manage my money and my career – and protect myself and my family from the unexpected.

During the 60-minute session, I walk you through the principles of my financial decision-making system and apply them to your own money management process.

Specifically, I discuss:

  • The biggest mistake you’re making with your money
  • The connection between money and career satisfaction…and share the best, “first” step to take if you are considering changing jobs.
  • The importance of your money “mindset” and use it to re-think how you are saving and spending your money.
  • Plus a whole lot more…

To participate, just click on the image below to download the workbook and tune in to the event.


Ben Sands

Author Ben Sands

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