Back in the 80s, Van Halen was the biggest rock band in the world.

Their live performances were legendary, as was their artist rider.

An artist rider is a part of the performance contract that specifies everything the artist requires to perform that day.

Van Halen’s long rider had “a large bowl of M&Ms, all brown ones removed.”


For years, this was dismissed as typical rock star diva behavior. But it turns out it was actually a shrewd and efficient business move.

The M&M line was inserted near the end of the rider, after many pages of important technical and safety specs.

So the band used it as an indicator of whether the promoter did their due diligence and carefully read every page.

All the band had to do was look for the M&M bowl. If they saw any brown ones they knew their road crew had to do a check of the entire stage setup.

The M&M bowl was like a check engine light: a sign SOMETHING down the line might require serious attention.

I use a spin of this when troubleshooting progress plateaus with my clients. I ask questions but the answers (or non-answers) just tell me where I need to dig deeper.

How many calories do you eat a day? If the answer is “I don’t know” then it’s probably too many or not enough.

So I ask to see a current food log or get them to start keeping one.

Same with how much protein they eat in a day. An “I don’t know” suggest it’s probably not enough and time to check the food log.

What’s your favorite exercise? If the answer is bench press then they probably need a lot more rowing. Ask to see previous programming and ideally get current physique pics.

And so on.

The key is the WHY behind every answer, not the answer itself.

Why is getting in enough protein a challenge? Is it a palate preference or just poor planning?

Why is sleep so lousy? Is it job stress, kids, or too much exercise?

When you do things this way you also determine the real fixes to a problem.

So rather than telling someone with a stressful job to “chill out more” you can help them pinpoint what exactly IS stressing them, and then suggest possible solutions.

Or at least program around them as best you can.

Shrewd and efficient.