Are you aware of the brown M&M rule?

Today is March 22 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “are you aware of the brown M&M rule?” The rock band Van Halen included a provision in its concert contract with venues that called for M&M’s (WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES).”


The presence of even a single brown M&M in that bowl was sufficient legal cause for Van Halen to peremptorily cancel a scheduled appearance. The M&Ms provision was included in Van Halen’s contracts as a simple way to determine whether the technical specifications of the contract had been thoroughly read and understood.


Van Halen was one of the first bands to take huge concert productions on the road.


Unfortunately, they experienced many technical errors at different venues: 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. For quality purposes, Van Halen would put different provisions into the contract rider just to see if every last detail was addressed. As Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth explained


“The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese 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 … well, we knew we would have to line-check 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.”


American basketball coach John Wooden noted that "Big things are accomplished only through the perfection of minor details."


How often do you realize the importance of the minor details? Are you so busy you ignore the minor details? How often do you think you are aware of the brown M&M rule?