Years ago I got back late after a local gig and was exhausted. I carried in my guitar and cash box, but left some of my other gear in my car – including my $2,000 trumpet (no judging – I was young, stupid and TIRED). The next morning, as you would imagine, I awoke to a smashed back window and no trumpet. I called my insurance company (State F(U)arm) and explained what happened. The agent asked what I used my trumpet for. “Uh as a beer bong. What do you think? I play it.” “Do you perform with it?” “Yeah.” “Do you get compensated for these performances?” “Well yeah, but last night’s gig was a little rough. The turnout was a little light. But generally I do ok.” “And what kind of music do you play?” Here’s where I just thought she was being nice and I went into my normal schpiel: “Well at its core it’s acoustic rock/pop, but I do a looping thing with a pedal where I live record beat boxing, keyboards, guitar and trumpet, and then I layer. . .” “Let me stop you right there. I’m sorry we don’t cover rock musicians.” “Huh? But I’ve been paying for insurance.” “We only cover classical musicians under our rental insurance policy.” Heart. Drop.
I’ve learned a few things since the trumpet incident. 1. Obviously don’t leave your instruments in your car overnight – especially not on Franklin Ave in Minneapolis. and 2. State Farm is not like a good neighbor. Because my neighbor would have kicked that asshole’s ass before he got two steps away from my car.
Don’t Forget The Sheet
If you are on tour and aren’t touring with a van/trailer you may have to leave the majority of your equipment in your car. I now tour solo in a Highlander (SUV). I leave most of my equipment in the back (not my instruments or cash) BUT I cover everything with a giant, king size sheet. Criminals will look through windows and if they see something valuable they will smash and grab. If they don’t know what’s inside they most likely won’t take the risk.
Get An Alarm Or Bright Blinking Light
My Highlander is now equipped with a LOUD alarm system with a VERY BRIGHT blinking blue light. It’s another fantastic deterrent. Since I got the Highlander, it has never been broken into (knock on wood – please do that right now…for me).
Walls Are Your Friend
If you are touring with a van/trailer, make sure to back your trailer up to a wall so the back door can’t be opened. Also, get the strongest, most industrial pad lock they make. The absolute unbreakable kind. When I toured with a band, van/trailer style, ‘they’ attempted to cut our locks. But failed.
Don’t Advertise Your Band On The Side Of Your Van
My high school band bought a van after our first out of town show and thought it would be awesome to spray paint our band name on the side. “Like Van Halen’s tour bus!” Except we weren’t in a bus. And didn’t have Van Halen’s security detail. Big no no. Don’t tell criminals that there’s thousands of dollars of really expensive gear hidden behind the walls. Keep your shit incognito.
Insure Your Equipment
And most of all, insure your equipment through an insurance company that will actually cover non-classical musicians. (I’m still not over it). Music Pro Insurance will cover $20,000 worth of gear for about $250 a year. You heard right. That’s a great deal. My $2,600 laptop was stolen last year from a venue’s green room and Music Pro Insurance was awesome about getting me a check right away. Sure I lost about 2 months worth of work (could have been a lot worse – had a fairly recent backup…THANK GOD!), but I got a brand new computer and Logic and all the other software I had insured. Yes, they insure software as well.
You can never be too careful and in our line of work, you have to expect that at some point your gear will get stolen. If someone wants it, there’s virtually nothing you can do about it, so get the insurance.
Hopefully you’ll never experience this kind of heart break (the kind you can’t write songs about).