Advice Clinic

How to keep your instruments safe on the road

30th June 2017

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The road is a thieves’ paradise. We don’t mean to make you paranoid, but while you’re reading this blog on your iPhone in the dressing room, chances are that a devious toerag is chiselling into your Transit van, flogging your ’59 Les Paul on the dark web and defecating in your glovebox. Here are five ways to keep your instruments safe on tour.

#1. Make an inventory
It’s no good putting the feelers out for a “stolen Strat” in a city of millions. Note down and photograph the minutiae of all your gear, including brand, model, age, serial number and identifying marks, like the dents on the Telecaster that you used to batter that Hell’s Angel. Mark everything with a security UV pen, register your gear on GearTrack, and if the worst happens, ask the Musicians’ Union to add the details to their Stolen Instruments Bulletin.

#2. Don’t leave gear in vehicles
When you roll into the Holiday Inn car park at 3am, drooling with exhaustion, you’ll just want to collapse into your shared single bed – but if you leave your gear in the van overnight, there’s a fair chance you’ll be playing air guitar at tomorrow’s gig. If unloading really is absolutely impossible, at least park up somewhere well-lit, near the entrance to your accommodation, and put an alarm, wheel clamp and hitch lock on your trailer.

#3. Guard the van
As every scheming scumbag knows, the best time to rob a touring band is when they’re busy shifting rack toms from the van to the stage door. Be extra vigilant when loading in and out, whether that means stationing a band member by the vehicle to fend off the scary men with gold teeth, or locking the doors every time you run the gauntlet.

#4. Stay alert in the venue
You’ve loaded in – but don’t assume that the venue is safe as houses. Ask your contact to provide a lockable backstage room, and if your kit is left onstage between sets, keep one eye on it from the bar.

#5. Get insurance
Yeah, we know: insurance is pretty much the antithesis of the rock ‘n’ roll mission statement. But given that a quarter of us musicians will have our gear stolen – and only 3% of those instruments are ever recovered – it could make the difference between your band folding and the show going on. Shop around and you could find a policy for as little as £33 per year.

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Author

Henry Yates is a freelance journalist who has written for music magazines including Classic Rock, Total Guitar, Guitarist, NME and Metal Hammer, and brands including V Festival, Download, Epiphone, Yamaha, Roland and Universal. His proudest career moment was meeting Jimmy Page - and his toughest assignment was interviewing Pharrell Williams."