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I came across a usage of the common word rider on a TV cookery show that I'd never met before. On checking, I found just two online dictionaries with the very specific definition

rider [noun] [UK data] ...

[c] a statement added to the contract of a performer saying what they would like to have provided in their dressing room:

  • He requested only Pepsi and a few slices of pizza on his rider for a personal appearance.
  • The singer's 25-page rider included "non smelly" cheese, six kinds of water, and five sofas.

[Cambridge Dictionary]

rider ...

[2.2] An amendment or addition to an entertainer's performance contract, often covering a performer's equipment or food, drinks, and general comfort requirements. [from 20th c.]

[Wiktionary]

Given that M-W, Collins, OALD, Longman, AHD and Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary don't mention the specific provision of extras (nibbles, drinks ...) for artistes (though the general 'extra stipulation' sense is of course well known), I'd like to ask how common this usage is, in the States and the UK.

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  • 2
    Wiktionary has a more articulated definition of rider in that respect: An addition, supplements: 1) (politics) A supplementary clause added to a document after drafting, especially to a bill under the consideration of a legislature. [from 17th c.] 2) An amendment or addition to an entertainer's performance contract, often covering a performer's equipment or food, drinks, and general comfort requirements. [from 20th c.] 3) An additional matter or question arising in corollary; a qualification. [from 19th c.] 4) A supplementary question, now especially in mathematics. [from 19th c.]
    – Gio
    Dec 2, 2023 at 18:35
  • I specify the subsense I find unusual. Dec 2, 2023 at 19:28
  • 2
    Well, any type of contract can have a rider.
    – Lambie
    Dec 2, 2023 at 19:33
  • Some of the more exotic riders... marieclaire.com/celebrity/g15872900/absurd-celebrity-riders
    – Dan
    Dec 2, 2023 at 22:36
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    There are also riders for insurance policies. As an example, if I built a swimming pool on my property, my standard homeowner’s policy might provide no protection in case someone should have an accident in it and sue me. So to obtain coverage for this new liability, my insurance company might sell a rider for my policy. Dec 3, 2023 at 3:20

1 Answer 1

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The OED lists this specific use of rider starting at 1975. It’s a rider to a performance agreement—covering performer requirements of all kinds (not just comestibles):

rider noun
III. An addition or supplement.
III.17.c. spec. A supplementary clause in a performer’s contract specifying particular requirements for accommodation, food, drink, etc. Also (chiefly British)*: the items so specified or provided; (hence) an additional fee paid in kind to a performer, usually in the form of food and drink.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary (login required)

Surely you’ve heard of Van Halen’s legendary M&M’s-no-brown-ones rider line item?

Back in the 1980s, the rock band Van Halen had a long list of demands in its contract rider—endless picky notes about the stage setup, the lighting and all kinds of technical details, along with various food mandates. The wildest request by far was a line item requesting a bowl of M&M’s, with “absolutely no brown ones.”
Source: Smithsonian Magazine, Arts & Culture, July 21, 2023

If the OED’s blessing is not sufficient, you can search “performance agreement rider” and such to find many more examples that indicate its commonness.


* In a metonymic flight of fancy, those Brits are eating the rider:

2002   So why don’t we go off to their dressing room and eat their rider like you said?

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  • Thanks. The example I came across had something like "Do you get riders, Aled? I always get Leedsie Bars. I don't like Leedsie Bars" showing that riders have flown even further, to include items provided without having been requested by the performer. Dec 3, 2023 at 15:50
  • Ah, yes — that sounds like the “chiefly British” usage: the stuff provided. Dec 3, 2023 at 16:01

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