The little details matter which is why every school leader must insist on having an ‘Article 146’ when it comes to running their school.
The rock band Van Halen knew all about this – their tour rider famously included a clause that outlined how a bowl of M&Ms had to be provided in the backstage areas at every stop but contain “absolutely no brown ones.”
Not exactly a wild demand but was this just some sort of vanity thing?
Far from it.
They were worried that the people who put their shows together were not fans of the band so wouldn’t share the same level of commitment that a fan would.
If the organsiers put brown M&Ms in the bowl then what other details had they overlooked that could actually really matter? Think about the potential problems if the rigging and lighting weren’t done as specified. This was no folly.
If they found a brown one, it would be a break in the contract and they were legally entitled to cancel the show.
Front man David Lee Roth said in 2012 that he and Eddie Van Halen thought the M&M’s would serve as a litmus test for how diligent a concert promoter was.
“If I came backstage, having been one of the architects of this lighting and staging design and I saw brown M&M’s on the catering table, then I guarantee the promoter had not read the contract rider, and we would have to do a serious line check.”
And this really mattered because of the band’s technically complex and dangerous-adjacent performances and the M&M clause was a way to test that their equipment, their band members, and their audience were safe. Roth says their productions were so big that many of their venues weren’t geared up for the band’s complex equipment…
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.
“..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, 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.”
So the brown M&Ms clause is part of a smart contract and something we can all learn from, especially when dealing with contractors and organisers who might not be as good as they tell you they are.
But this applies to your staff and students too. If someone is prepared to take short-cuts then what are their lessons like?
How many students would benefit from learning about Article 146 and then apply the thinking to their own studies?
Working to satisfy a demand for detail builds a culture of quality that has the potential for huge benefits for the whole school.
The detail counts. The M&M clause was not ridiculous or outrageous from ego-driven rockstars but savvy musicians who cared about what they did.