Let’s face it, something as basic as a display of food and drinks on a table in the dressing room is one of the most important components of any gig. In this article, we’re going to go through a bunch of steps on how to properly make and utilize a hospitality rider.
Unfortunately, the rider never gets fully used and can be a giant waste of money for whoever is paying for it. It’s become a list, that over time has grown with random items added by the revolving door of techs, hired guns, and general aspirations.
How many times have you asked or been asked, “Can we add this to the rider?” or my favorite, the suggestions… “You know what you should add to the rider…” Then proceed to tell you something that they’ve only eaten once and will never eat again. That is how to create a long list of wasted products that continue to show up even long after they’re no longer requested.
So look, If you’re looking to see some exotic details on celebrity riders, I get it. But, this isn’t the place. Follow the link here to the smoking gun instead. But… If you wanna know how to build a useful and effective hospitality rider, we’ll need to break this down into a couple different categories.
- What’s the purpose of the rider?
- Who pays for it?
- How is it dealt with on the road?
- How to build one that fits your camp.
So, What’s the Purpose of the Rider?
For those of you that know what the Hospitality Rider is, bear with me for a second. For those of you that don’t, it’s a list of hospitality items (groceries) that a touring party requests to be delivered backstage. Its purpose is to help the artist and crew have food and drinks in between meals. This is also the opportunity to order your alcohol needs for the day.
I’ve mentioned in previous articles that the mythical hospitality rider is sometimes used for artists to ask for outlandish shit. Where they’ll ask for stuff that doesn’t matter, stuff that they think will make them look cool, or items that they’ve heard that someone else has on their rider. But the actual purpose (if used correctly) can be a very useful tool.
Here are some examples of some very common rider requests:
- Drinks – Water, beer, liquor, wine, mixes for dranks, coconut water, gatorade, etc.
- Snacks – Meat and cheese platters, dried fruit, nuts, crackers, granola bars, chips and salsa, veggie and fruit trays, etc.
- Sandwich Items – Meat and cheese from the platter, peanut butter, buns and bread, condiments, etc.
- Misc Items – Manuka Honey, gum, tums, hand sanitizer, cups, cutlery, napkins, etc.
These are the essentials found on almost every rider. To be honest, rightfully so. These are pretty good snack suggestions. But where does it stop? I think to draw the line, we need to address the golden question…
Who Pays for the Rider?
There are 2 different scenarios when trying to find out who actually ends up paying for the rider. It’s a common misconception that these items need to be provided at every show, no matter what the engagement is.
1 – Festival/Promoter Pays for the Rider
If you’re playing at a festival with sponsors or anywhere that the contract states a Flat Deal (when there are no overages based on ticket sales), then it’s usually up to the promoter to provide hospitality at their cost.
Often times, they will cross items out on your list when signing back the contract. This is the smart thing to do and makes everyone’s life a little easier when we get a little closer to the day. The other option is that they sign the contract back stating “festival hospitality” in which the promoter gives you a generic, pre-determined, but limited assortment of snacks and drinks. This option is generally accompanied by 2-3 meals at catering as well.
2 – Artist Pays for the Rider
Although this sounds like balderdash, this is unknowingly, a very common situation. As I mentioned in the Roadie Dictionary, the rider falls under the catering and hospitality line on the budget and is often considered a show cost. Since many of the performance contracts are based on a guarantee (Flat Fee), with Overages (extra % if the show sells more tickets than what it pays for in expenses), as soon as you get into overages, the artist is paying for a large percentage of the cost of their own rider (commonly 85%).
When I’m creating the full tour rider, I put a section before hospitality that says “This is a template rider to be used for budgetary purposes only, please advance the latest version with the tour manager” I find this helpful since it gives the promoter side an idea of what we’re looking at, but I also don’t want all of this stuff to just show up in the dressing room on day of show.
If you’re the opening band, your hospitality amount comes from the headliners budget. More than just their needs, the whole show needs to be accommodated from the allotted amount. This is why your needs are less of a priority.
So we’ve allotted the appropriate amount of money to the right people, what now?
How is it Dealt With on the Road?
For many people, it just shows up out of nowhere. But there is quite the process of getting all of these items from the grocery store to dressing rooms.
Option 1 – Festival
This is usually an easy solution. Like I mentioned above, the list is often pre-determined. So when you’re advancing, you’re spending less time trying to barter for items, and more time dealing with substitutions based on sponsors (when Monster Energy Drink sponsors the festival, but you ask for 12 x RedBulls), or what time you want everything to show up.
The list will be pre-shopped by the runners or hospitality coordinator, likely the week before the festival while buying in bulk to save money.
Option 2 – Pre-Shop
Pre-Shop is when you’re doing a normal show and submit your list in advance. This way the runner or whoever it is that shops the hospitality can get a jump on the list anytime before the day of show. This is great for planning and frees up a ton of time for your runner if you have to send out laundry, do airport runs, etc.
If you can estimate what you’ll need each day, this is ideal. But if your full list is at the top end of the budgeted amount, you need to be creative and not waste all of your money on something that you’ll have leftover from the day before.
Sometimes the venues won’t allow outside booze and they need to order their alcohol from their licensed distributor. This usually needs to happen a couple of days before the show, so it has to be pre-shopped.
When I send a pre-shop list, it generally consists of everything that I know I’ll 100% need. If I’m starting to get a bit of a stockpile of beer, I’ll know that I can probably get away with half of the list. Although, If I have a border crossing coming up and I’m trying to get rid of bigger quantities, I’ll send the bigger list to the first show on the other side of the border and minimize variables at the crossing.
The key with pre-shopping is if you can have a mix with option 3 below. You send a list of what you know you’ll need for sure, then you can always utilize the runner throughout the show day to get your daily needs.
Option 3 – Send the Runner Day of Show
This is generally the most time consuming, but the most cost-effective way of handling hospitality. You can do a real-time evaluation of your supplies and send the runner out with the allotted cash for hospitality. Generally, the list is broken down into different stops. i.e. The runner will say, “There is a lot of stuff from Whole Foods on here, but these other items are cheaper to get at another grocery store. Do you want me to make 2 stops, or grab it all at one place?” That’s when you talk about traffic, distance to the stores, ETA of timelines, and your general runner expectations. This is also the opportunity to find the local gems for coffee, pizza, etc.
Now we’ve covered the foundation of the rider, let’s find out how to actually build one.
How to Build a Rider That Fits Your Camp
There doesn’t have to be a holy grail. As mentioned above, this can constantly be changing. If you’re gonna be able to fully utilize the budget without unnecessarily wasting a bunch of food, you need to manage your own expectations.
What Kind of Shows are We Playing?
You need to know what you’re trying to accomplish, how much is actually going to get used, and whatever doesn’t, how are you gonna transport it to the next city? Here are a few scenarios that will change the mindset of your planning:
- Are you headlining and need 2 extra cases of beer for your after-show guests?
- There is only so much storage on the bus, do you have a road case that fits in the truck or trailer that you can pack full of snacks? Is it gonna get too cold and burst all of your pop cans? Is it gonna get too hot and melt all of your chocolates?
- Are you the support band and only getting a small dinner buyout? Maybe you want to try and get some more groceries that you can take with you instead.
- Are you in a van and have no way to keep perishable items? Yea? Then maybe don’t ask for 10x fresh-pressed juices for your band and crew of 5 people.
How Many People do We Need to Accommodate?
This is probably the most common misunderstanding of what needs to be adjusted. On previous riders, you might have had a crew of 25 people. On this run, you might only have 10 total. Adjust your quantities accordingly. Don’t be those assholes with a 5 person touring party that asks for 100x tall cans.
Where is it Displayed?
You need to think about how long you need these snacks. Are you even gonna be there all day? Does this stuff keep well? Should I do resealable sandwich meat instead of a meat tray in an obnoxious platter? Base your quantities on these points as well.
Separate Into Different Delivery Times.
I like to separate the rider into different delivery times and locations to ensure everything shows up fresh and the temperature it’s required to be.
- Load in (Production Office) – If you’re not doing breakfast catering, maybe land some breakfast sandwiches, or basic bacon and egg platters for however many people you have. Include coffee, fruit, and water for this. You can’t have the crew getting hungry in the morning. They WILL turn on you.
- 12 PM (Band Dressing Room)– I generally land all snacks so that the team can start picking away at them. Just make sure there is a proper way to keep the perishable items fresh.
- 4 PM (Band Dressing Room) – All alcohol with fresh ice. Otherwise, your ice will melt, make a mess, and need continuous attention.
- 11 PM (Band Dressing Room or Bus) – Aftershow food. Whenever the show ends, everyone normally needs to eat. There’s nothing worse than going on a late-night mission.
These are the basic steps to keep in mind when trying to properly make a hospitality rider. That being said, a lot of time, energy, and money go into hospitality. Let’s collectively be a little more grateful for it all and the people that have to deal with it. There’s nothing worse than pulling off a miraculous save in a tough situation, just to have everyone complain about it.
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