Van Halen ‘s Brown M&M Clause: simple and genious.

| April 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

Van Halen’s concert contracts famously (or, infamously) required that brown M&Ms be forbidden from the band’s dressing room.

Van Halen ClauseImage from  The Smoking Gun

Some thought the demand eccentric or a clever loophole to slip out of a contract. The reality is a good reminder that we always need to dig deeper. The legend of the brown M&Ms clause is funny and interesting. But the reality is far more revealing. You can apply for different markets ever software development.

Apply Van Halen Clause in software development

When you talk with customers to take requirements, do you accept their answers at face value or do you ask for details?

Imagine that you are taking requirements for new software in different meetings with  your customer. After that process, these requirements will be the base of the contract that will bind you to the product that you have to supply.

Now imagine that you say yes, we can do it ! to all things that they asked for you even if you are not sure that is possible, because you can´t say “That is not possible”, because of the fear to lose the contract.

If the customer wants to be sure that the product will have the quality that they are looking for, could introduce in the requirements a “van halen clause”.

Van Halen requirements: be careful with it.

In software development a Van halen clause could be a requisite that is  insignificant and simple such as:

  • empty folder in source packages.
  • insert blank text.
  • put a css style that you never need to use.

These requirements have to :

  • not penalize cost of development (time and money).
  • not penalize performance.
  • be not impossible to do.
  • not affect the application behavior.


Thus the clause Van Halen can be used to measure quality, but above all if the software product is professional enough. And a thing that could be the most important: the commitment of the company with the product that it has developed. This can be  the difference in receiving new projects from this customer in the future: trust sensation.


Category: Others

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