Controversy broke out last week when the University of Oklahoma’s student newspaper, The Oklahoma Daily, published Grammy-winning rocker Jack White’s contract and tour rider (a performer’s set of demands), highlighting some of the more interesting requests, including a very specific guacamole recipe and a strongly worded aversion toward bananas.
While a statement from The Oklahoma Daily asserts that the original purpose for the perusal of the document was in an effort to report the cost of the concert to the university, the story was first published in tandem with the document. The first story, headlined “‘We want it chunky’ and other gems from Jack White’s contract with OU,” focused entirely on the somewhat humorous portions of the tour rider. A tour rider is a document that lists the requests of a performer and their crew, often including technical details and preferences in food and drink provisions.
The Huffington Post reported that White’s team also took issue towards the newspaper’s use of photographers at the event despite the terms of the contract, which dictated that no press photography passes would be granted. While no staff photographers were present past the entrance of the venue, they did use photographs taken of crew members around the venue and of the students waiting to be admitted. This also violated the contract.
According to oudaily.com, this led to an off-hand remark from White at the event on Feb. 2, announcing on stage in response to the publication’s actions, “Just because you can type it on your computer doesn’t make it right.” White, still touring in support of last year’s Billboard-topping “Lazaretto,” also reportedly complained about the campus’ anti-tobacco and alcohol policy.
In addition, huffingtonpost.com reported that White’s booking agency, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, had blacklisted the university, and would no longer book any of its artists for campus events as a result of the situation. White’s management later released a statement disputing the blacklisting, while still condemning the newspaper’s actions as “unfortunate, unprofessional, and very unwelcoming.”
The animosity on both sides of this dispute is laughable and entertaining, but perhaps a bit too reactive. The Oklahoma Daily was certainly in the right when it came to publishing the financial details of the performance. This information is both available to the public and of importance to the population of the community of the university. As oudaily.com points out, the University of Oklahoma is a public school—anyone who wanted to see the contract could have requested a copy.
As far as publishing the tour rider and making fun of the requests, well there’s not much wrong about that either. It’s an entertaining story with campus interest tied right in, a no-brainer for a university journalist. However, The Oklahoma Daily did perhaps cross the line when poking fun at the strict “no banana” request, since food allergies are common and the request could have sincerely been in the interest of the health of the crew members. The joke made in response to this was a bit insensitive, and more thought should have been put into its publication.
Aside from that, the article is pretty innocuous—the angle is more promotional than anything, even linking readers to a website where tickets could be purchased for the show. It was poking fun, sure, but ultimately in service to White’s interests.
But it follows that, in firing shots of ridicule, White’s camp had every right to fire back. The relationship between the press and the music community has always been salty, to say the least—this kind of reaction should have been expected with this notion in mind, even if the University of Oklahoma seems like a small target for a decently famous rock star like White.
It is important to note that rock bands have a history of making tour riders into huge jokes. According to Noisey, Van Halen’s tour rider in the 1980s was especially ridiculous, requesting an inordinate amount of M&M’s candy with all of the brown-colored candies picked out. The same source points out Marilyn Manson’s standing rider request for “a bald, toothless hooker.” These requests are clearly to be taken with a grain of salt, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that White and his crew are acting in jest both in the document and on-stage.
Perhaps the biggest issue up for debate here is the newspaper’s deliberate disregard of the no-photo policy. The publication stood its ground here.
“In White’s contract it says that no photographs may be taken in or around the venue,” said Assistant Life and Arts Editor Emily Sharp. “But constitutionally this is not something that can be enforced. If you are in a public place, you can take photos.”
This is really where White’s party might have a leg to stand on– this is a clear breach of contract, even if it may be a problematic provision. Had White’s booking agency actually blacklisted the university, this would have been a reasonable justification.
Other than the photography dispute, this clash, which eater.com has deemed “GuacamoleGate,” is really an issue of joker vs. joker. It’s been an entertaining back and forth, but in the end the only real result of substance is a recipe for a Mexican dip.
Jordan Walsh can be reached at Jordan.firstname.lastname@example.org