Gigs4U guest blogger, Robin Fairbanks, is a 30+ year music industry veteran and local Seattle music writer, publicist and consultant. Robin published this article 2 years ago for SMI-SeattleMusic Insider. We know Robin shares it each year around festival season when most ‘smash and grabs’ and theft occur. We hope you find it as helpful and interesting as we did. Please share it with other musicians.
Part 2: INSIDE OUT Instrument/Gear Insurance
Most musicians are in possession of instruments of monetary as well as extreme sentimental value yet as important as these instruments are to the holder (some irreplaceable), most musicians carry no instrument insurance to protect them.
So what stops a musician from seeking an insurance quote? Pre-conceived notions for the most part. Most musicians never explore an instrument insurance quote because in their minds, it will be too expensive when in reality, it’s quite affordable especially if you have 3 or more members in your band to share the expense. A misnomer is that your home or car insurance will cover the stolen item. A homeowner’s policy won’t cover instruments if you make money with them. Most stolen instruments are vehicle smash and grabs and even if your car insurance did pay for it, it’s very likely it would not compensate you for the total loss unless you’ve added an extra rider (costly) to cover over the limit. Standard auto personal property insurance is $500. Unless you’ve chosen to raise your limits, you’re out of luck as to replacement value. So if your loss was $15,000 with a $500 personal property limit, now you are $1,450 short of replacing the stolen items. Goodbye tour, gigs, so long future income, rent, musical dreams, until you can save up the money to replace lost items all which could’ve been avoided by taking a quick step to insuring them.
I’m not endorsing any particular instrument insurance policy but in my research of several plans, MPI MusicPro Insurance, seemed to be the overall favorite and in this article, I talk to Cody Beebe of Cody Beebe and The Crooks who have a MPI policy and had to use it to cover a recent loss.
I advise checking out the MPI site to read more about them and use their website’s Quick Quote calculator to get an estimated yearly rate. I think you’ll be very surprised to see just how affordable it really is especially when you look at the alternative of what it will cost without insurance to replace everything. Bands need to quit setting up Go Fund Me accounts and asking their fans to pay for their negligence. If your fans want to help, fine, but don’t expect them to shoulder your mistake. I suggest throwing a benefit concert if you should fall financially short.
Who is eligible for coverage? Everyone is eligible and you do not have to be professionally affiliated with a music industry group.
How long does it take to enroll, be approved, and kick in for use? It’s an easy online process. It usually takes 48 hours for approval. MPI does “not” base approval upon credit, and they don’t run credit checks. It also covers the cost to rent musical instruments/gear until your claim is processed and you’ve replaced your stuff so the show/tour can go on.
How much does it cost? The cost is $150 per $10,000 of coverage, (use the calculator on the site to calculate your needs.) Policies run from June 20th through June 20th each year. If you sign up today, they’ll prorate your premium. There is a $100 minimum premium per year.
What does it cover? Everything you want to be covered up to the limit will be replaced with like items. Exceptions to this rule are individual items over $25,000 value require an appraisal as well as vintage items you can’t replace. Higher limits are available for a small additional premium for vintage replacement with a new instrument. Classical musicians, there is a special tab on the site for you.
Are there any other benefits included in the $10,000 coverage? On top of the $10k musician instrument/equipment coverage, at no extra charge, they cover $5000 in EDP (Electronic Data Processing.) This includes computers, hardware, software, etc. So if you’re laptop were stolen that contained your vital programs such as Pro Tools, your masters, backing tracks, etc, MPI will cover it up to $5000. Also included at no charge is $5000 of coverage for valuable papers (passports, identification, laminates, and business cards.) Passports alone can cost a fortune to replace. If you’re on tour in a foreign country and needed to expedite passports for your whole band, it could cost thousands of dollars.
What’s covered? Coverage is for everything, all musical instruments and the equipment needed to operate them. The coverage is worldwide, this means that you will have coverage at your home, studio, practice space, while in transit to your “gig”, and at the performance venue, 24 hours a day/7 days a week. If you’re a band touring or traveling anywhere in the world, you’re covered. On the road, plane, train, if something happens to your gear, it’s covered. This includes acts of nature (floods, hurricane, or earthquake, etc) theft, fire, damage, (excluding normal wear and tear), just about any scenario you can imagine is included except if you purposely trash your gear, it’s on you!
What is the deductible? There is a $100 deductible loss/claim, (not per item), and that’s an important feature of the MPI policy. So if everything that the band owned was stolen from their van, then it’s just the $100 deductible for the loss/claim (not per item) (excluding personal items and of course, depending on the coverage amount on the policy.)
If I call to ask questions will I get a recording? MPI encourage calls and a real person will answer the phone who is used to talking to musicians and understands the music business. I’ve heard they’re very friendly and great to work with!
Classical Musicians: (Classical musicians apply for Classical Instrument & Equipment policy).
So you don’t think it will happen to you?
It’s not “if” it will, it’s “when” it will, just ask Cody Beebe and The Crooks, a full-time touring band, they’re what I consider very smart and business saavy guys who have a lot of touring experience and were well prepared when they set off on their first 35 day European tour yet they fell victim to stolen instruments that almost derailed their tour before it had even begun. I talked with leader Cody Beebe:
RF: Have you ever lost instruments in the PNW?
CB: Yes, about 5 years ago in Spokane. Parked the van on the street at the hotel and someone
broke out the window. Didn’t get much, only lost a guitar. Luckily everything else was in
our trailer but we had to pay about $300 to fix the window. Luckily for us, a few guys who
used to be in the band, took leave and went into the insurance biz. Greg insured the
equipment for 3-4 years as a security blanket, insuring all the guys computers, video
camera, over $40,000 of equipment versus losing it to theft. For a touring band, setting
aside approximately a $100 a month is affordable, especially for a band of five.
RF: I know bands who spend that much on booze on a weekend. To me, there is no reason
why a band can’t afford insurance. It should be considered a necessity and honestly if you
consider yourself a pro band and you can’t afford insurance, maybe your band is really a
hobby not a business because people in business insure the tools of their trade. Cody, I
recently read that you had instruments stolen on your European tour. What happened?
CB: We took “every” precaution and did our research, everything was well planned out. Skylar
put his pedals, keyboard, a Telecaster that he loved which was once stolen from him 2-3
years ago and found on Craigslist, and even his personal optical contacts into a borrowed
flight case. We paid about $500 extra for our baggage to get over there. We checked two
heavy duty flight cases and carried on -or- gate checked our guitars to insure they would
be on the flight. We flew United to Chicago and then changed planes to Swiss Air.
When we arrived in Switzerland, two flight case were missing (they’re not small.)
We had 3 days in Bern, Switzerland and Skylar now has no keys, or guitar. We along with
our Business Mgr Dawn Dulan, started making calls. Airlines were pointing fingers at each
other. Swiss Air didn’t want to claim responsibility. How do you lose 2 huge flight cases?
We suspect an inside job.
RF: Aren’t there cameras in those holding areas? Seems like there should be footage that can
CB: That’s what we think too. We spent 3 days in Bern and never got one call from the airline
after many calls to them. We spent a lot of time and hundreds of dollars on phone calls
trying to locate the cases and line up replacement instruments for our 1st gig. Aaron, who
is a heavy-handed keyboard player, now has to play on a rinky dink “Casio-like” keyboard
that the venue located for use and he still has no guitar. Luckily we zip tied 2 acoustic
guitar cases together and walked them on as a carry on or they were gate checked and
put in the underbelly of the plane, but at least I know they’re on the plane and will be
waiting for me on the tarmac when we arrive. * Note, you are the mercy of the gate
person if they feel like letting you on walk them on or not. I literally walked them on one
flight only to be stopped at the next destination and told I have to check them in baggage.
I argued that I just walked them on the last flight but it didn’t matter, the gate keeper
wouldn’t allow it so we cut them apart and two of us walked them on separately which is
stupid. Know all airlines are not standardized.
We spent extra handling charges per bag and they still didn’t make it! So now we have a
rinky dink keyboard and 2 acoustic guitars. Not exactly the Cody Beebe and The Crooks
we were planning to show Europe but we have no choice and they seem appreciative all
the same. A friend hooked us up with better keyboard in Frankfort and we’re grateful but
it’s hard to get used to a new instrument and it needs to be reprogrammed, a big
headache! Besides hundreds of dollars on phone calls, we have now spent thousands on
rentals and the whole ordeal is a blow to our mindset, energy, and shakes you up, it’s
deflating. We spent so much time and energy trying to locate gear rentals to get up and
running, it took away from the experience. Luckily we didn’t lose any merch, it was packed
in our suitcases. The borrowed flight case cost about $800 and we had to repay the person
we borrowed it from. In the end, no airline took responsibility for the lost flight cases.
Three days before the end of our 35 day tour, we finally heard from Swiss Air who insured
$1300 per bag x2 = $2600, $1000 in incidentals/rentals in Europe, and extra money for
additional weight, inventory. We’ve had MusicPro Insurance for years now. We have
insured around $47,000 of equipment which is $800 a year ($67 a mo.) x 4 yrs = $3200.
MPI cut us a check for $4700, so it has already paid for itself! Skylar was able to get new
equipment and our fans wanted to help and came to a benefit concert at The Tractor
Tavern, Seattle which helped make up the difference.
RF: Musicians, if you have endorsements, contact them. Gibson helped The Crooks while in
CB: Next time, we’ll walk-on or gate check guitars and possibly rent a keyboard (expensive).
We’re just thankful we had insurance, this could’ve been a whole lot worse!
RF: Thank you Cody Beebe for sharing your story. Musicians, read more about airline travel
with instruments. Be prepared and insure… insure… insure. Don’t be lax. Lax = Loss!
Robin found some other sites to help you track and recover stolen instruments / gear:
https://www.thetrackr.com/ – A GPS to aid in the tracking and ultimate recovery of stolen music equipment.
http://www.dewaltmobilelock.com – A portable wireless alarm system with GPS designed to protect high value mobile assets. The device, about the size of a deck of cards, can be mounted in a hidden area on any remote or mobile asset. (guitar case, van, inside amp)
http://gpsroadie.com – Protects your instruments using smartphones’ GPS and cellular location technologies. A GPSRoadie enabled phone can protect instruments, tour vans and tour trailers simply by turning on the app and placing it inside