An unfortunate reality for musicians is that, if they play out at all, they’ll probably lose gear at some point. Sometimes it’s an innocent mix-up where cables get lost in the shuffle, picked up by mistake, or something gets left behind. But, unfortunately, other times, it’s malicious.
Mike Herrera, vocalist and bassist of the punk rock band MxPx, can relate to the loss. “I’ve probably had the equivalent of a really nice car stolen,” he says. “The most valuable thing I’ve had stolen is my songbooks. You can replace a backpack, computer, guitar, but you can’t replace thoughts you’ve had recorded. That’s the worst part of being
Herrera has learned from these difficult and expensive experiences. Here are a few tips to protect yourself and your equipment:
1. Take pictures of your equipment: This way you have a clear image to present if something is taken. Distinguishing marks can be helpful in pinpointing your equipment later on. You should also take pictures or make copies of notes, songs, and other creative work.
2. Keep a record of serial numbers: This is a unique identifying feature on instruments. If you have them written down, there’s no guess work to knowing if a found instrument is yours or not.
3. Maintain a low profile: Plastering your band name across your car and trailer lets criminals know that you’ve got valuable gear inside. While it’s naïve to think people can’t figure out a “band van” when they see one, it’s still better than advertising what you can have stolen.
4. Park in safe places: Park the vehicle against walls to make getting inside harder and make sure you’re in a well-lit area.
5. Don’t leave things behind: Simply keeping important items (whether it’s a guitar or a passport) in your sight at all times is the best way to keep them safe. Don’t trust your buddies to watch your gear at a gig. It’s too easy for them to get distracted. When loading gear, use a tag team approach so someone always has eyes on the gear at each end.
6. Store the most important items in the hardest to reach places: If you need to leave something in the van or trailer, put it in the least accessible place so if someone does break in, they’ll at least have
a tough time getting to the item.
If things do get stolen, report it immediately, but realize a lost guitar is probably not that high on the police priority list. Look for the items yourself at pawnshops, or even in nearby dumpsters.
As for insurance, Herrera doesn’t recommend relying on it. “We do have insurance on all our gear, but the insurance companies make money by telling you ‘no.’ Take it upon yourself to be your own insurance.”
While these tips should be helpful, Herrera’s best advice is even simpler. “Don’t get too attached to material items,” he says. “Your happiness is rooted in experiences and relationships. Do what you can to be cautious, but sometimes loss happens when you least expect it. You can’t live your life worrying about the ‘what ifs.’ Bad things will happen. It’s just a matter of dealing with it and moving on. And, don’t put all your eggs, or guitars, in one basket.”