Education and Brown M&Ms

You have heard the jokes about the “Red M&Ms” when referring to people with outrageous demands or acting like divas.  This story had been so convoluted, that many people (including myself) had thought that at some point, a rock band, had asked for only red M&Ms, but in fact, this story was wrong.  Listening to a podcast this morning, they had mentioned that the band Van Halen had actually requested in their contracts that all of the Brown M&Ms be removed from the bowl, but according to them, there was a hidden reason behind this (From

Buried amongst dozens of points in Van Halen’s rider was an odd stipulation that there were to be no brown M&M’s candies in the backstage area. If any brown M&M’s were found backstage, the band could cancel the entire concert at the full expense of the promoter. That meant that because of a single candy, a promoter could lose millions…

To ensure the promoter had read every single word in the contract, the band created the “no brown M&M’s” clause. It was a canary in a coalmine to indicate that the promoter may have not paid attention to other more important parts of the rider, and that there could be other bigger problems at hand.

Whenever the band found brown M&M’s candies backstage, they immediately did a complete line check, inspecting every aspect of the sound, lighting and stage setup to make sure it was perfect. David Lee Roth would also trash the band’s dressing room to prove a point — reinforcing his reputation in the process.

Van Halen created a seemingly silly clause to make sure that every little detail was taken care of. It was important, both for the experience of the fans and the safety of the band, to make sure that no little problems created bigger issues.

As I often talk about education, I try to draw parallels between these stories in popular culture, and what they have to do with teaching, learning, and leadership.

My first thought was how when an educator sees themselves as an “artist”, the little details matter more than ever.  What is seemingly meaningless to someone outside of the classroom, could be the minor detail that means everything to someone who is working directly with students.  The balance here is understanding when we have to pay attention to the details, and then letting go and embracing the “messiness” of learning.

Personally, I know I try to both find that balance, while struggling with it.  I love this quote from John Wooden:


What are your connections? Are there any parallels to this story and what we do in education?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

If you want to hear David Lee Roth tell the story himself, this is an awesome little video:

Brown M&Ms from Van Halen on Vimeo.

Source: George Couros