In their heyday, Van Halen was known for it’s unique style. They gave audiences what they wanted. Staging their elaborate concerts was no small task. It took 9 eighteen-wheel trucks filled with gear to stage these extravaganzas.
In order to hire Van Halen to play at their venues, promoters were required to read and sign a standard concert contract. ‘Standard’ is relative, as the length of their contract made the novel ‘War and Peace’ look like a 4-page pamphlet.
Buried deep in the contract was a clause for M&Ms to be served backstage. There was a twist to this demand – there could be NO brown M&MS. Violation of this single clause could result in last-minute cancellation of the concert by the band, and full compensation would still have to be paid by the promoter.
NO Brown M&Ms?
Isn’t that the height of arrogance and privilege?
Or is it?
For years, this true story gave the impression that Van Halen was a group of prima donnas that had taken rock star excess to the highest level.
However, years later, in his memoir, lead singer David Lee Roth explained the real reason for this unusual request:
“Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into third-level markets. We’d pull up with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors — whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through.
The contract rider read like a version of the Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say “Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes …” This kind of thing. And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”
So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl … kill the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening.”
Once you read David Lee Roth’s explanation of this situation, don’t you have a different perspective? Is he still the pampered rock star, or, an intelligent individual who understands the problems – and potential dangers – that can arise if he and his bandmates aren’t protected from lazy or careless promoters?
His perspective changes your perspective, doesn’t it?
What does this have to do with speaking?
My friend and mentor, Darren LaCroix, taught me that the biggest reason people hire you is because they want your perspective on a specific topic.
Think about the best speeches you’ve heard recently.
Did the speaker discuss a topic you’d never heard before?
That person did offer a unique point-of-view about a topic that’s been previously discussed.
Consider some of the most memorable people of the last half-century:
Martin Luther King was not the first person to talk about racial equality.
John F Kennedy was not the first person to challenge us to do our fair share.
Mother Teresa was not the first person to promote the power of love.
What each of these extraordinary individuals did was offer their unique version of a subject about which they felt great passion. Their one-of-a-kind view is why they are each remembered long after they’ve left us.
As you develop your presentation, think about the unique perspective you bring. How can your story change the point-of-view of the audience?
For your next presentation, think like a rock star. Be bold and brave. Give the audience the gift that only you can provide…
RECOMMENDED RESOURCE OF THE WEEK
Van Halen Rising
Not your traditional storytelling or communication skills book, this is the tale of 4 young men from Southern California who pursued a dream with relentless focus, energy and persistence. More than a story of rock n roll decadence, this is an inspirational tale of perseverance and staying true to your vision and yourself. Highly recommended.
To order, visit: click here