Celebrity riders and the crazy demands that sometimes appear in them are fun to read. But when you get right down to it, riders are nothing more than a list of demands.

The event producer reading the rider needs to know how to interpret what the talent wants versus what it needs, and then negotiate with the talent’s agent. If the speaker’s only going to actually be at the show for two hours with no access to a green room, does he really need an iPod hookup and a 24-pack of Coke? Maybe not. But he might need the eight bottles of water he’s requested.

A lot of the items on a celebrity rider are designed to replace some of the hassles of constantly being on the road. All of us in the event industry know that travel sounds exciting to anyone who doesn’t have to travel for a living. Providing a comfort level and keeping talent happy without wasting money on frivolous items is an important role of an event producer.

A great example: Comedians always have a stool on-stage – a backless, standard stool. But have you ever actually seen the comedian sit down? Think hard. We bet you haven’t. But over the years, you realize that the stool is essential for the comedian, not so they can sit down, but to hold their water bottle and to serve as a “home base” or anchor point for the talent.

But what do you do with the “wacky” demands? Some of them are worthy of ignoring. Others might signal something more important. Everyone’s heard Van Halen’s famous demand: M&Ms, but “ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES.” What?! That’s in there for a reason. If Van Halen gets their brown M&M-less bowl of candies, they’ll know that you took the time to read the rider. If you give them all the colors, though, what else might you have missed on the rider? Van Halen might suspect that you’ve ignored their more important requests.

So, the key with entertainment riders is this: know what the talent actually needs versus what it wants, and save yourself some time and hassle. Have someone with experience interpret the rider. And don’t forget that $20 K-Mart stool if you have a comedian coming.