Rockstar employees get riders too

Plain-M&Ms-Pile
Van Halen 1982 Rider

Van Halen 1982 Rider

Yesterday news broke about Beyonce's rider including $900 drinking straws, hand-carved ice balls, and a new toilet seat for each show.  This reminded me of some of the ridiculous requests rock stars get to make in their riders, those contract additions for food, drink, and - well, pretty much anything really.

In 1982, Van Halen's rider specified that they required M&M's, but "definitely" no brown ones.  The four members of the band infamously destroyed the backstage of a venue when promoters failed to follow this policy and did not remove the brown M&Ms.

More amusing that demanding, The Foo Fighters' 2011 rider specified that they wanted 0 Cans of Tiger Blood, had a colouring book section for the caterers, and pointed out that "Chewbacca didn't get a medal at the end of Star Wars, which is a travesty" (source)

There's a disturbing trend in the tech industry to advertise for "Rockstar" developers.  One of my favourites was a job advertisement in Adelaide, South Australia for an Excel Rockstar... Rock on!  It's sort of the recruiting equivalent of advertising something as "kool" to a teenager.  John Athayde, who has the unique distinction of having been both a literal rockstar (he opened for Coldplay in front of 20,000 people) and a software developer, describes the trend as "probably one of the worst analogies of all time and it should be removed from the recruiting lexicon." (source)

But true to the rockstar analogy, some tech companies offer riders to their developers - Scopely kicked off the trend at the end of 2011 by offering new employees an oil painting of themselves, $11,000 in bacon-wrapped cash, a spear gun, and a tailored tuxedo, among other things.

It's an interesting approach, and one that attracted 1,000 resumes and resulted in 2 hires for Scopely back in 2011... so certainly in terms of attracting applications, it worked - proving that the talent market is indeed a market, and that the first-mover advantage still applies.  The next company to commission an oil painting for its' new staff presumably won't get press coverage by the LA Times and CNET.

What are some of the ways that you attract and retain talent in your organisation?

Bonus #1: Here's Ray Kassar, former head of Atari, on what it's like to really work with an employee who thinks they're a rockstar:

"I remember one top programmer who was on drugs. You know, these were guys who would come in at 2 A.M. and work till midnight the next night, then disappear for two days. That’s how programmers operate, and I had to accept that. I mean, I didn’t say, “You have to be here at eight o’clock and leave.” I understood that this was a very talented breed of people. I remember one guy came in. He was stoned out of his mind. He just wanted to read poetry to me, and I sat with him for four hours because he was one of our top programmers, just to let him feel that I understood him and I cared about him. At the end he said, “You know, I really appreciate what you’ve done for me.” I mean, that’s what I had to put up with."

Bonus #2: Here's Weird Al, possibly the nerdiest Rockstar of all time:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpMvS1Q1sos?feature=player_detailpage&w=640&h=360]