Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Theft, Fire, & Damage…are you prepared?

I am very sorry to say that one of my students had his PA system and bass rig stolen recently.  The value of all the stolen equipment was well over $10,000.  It was all stolen from his trailer in his driveway.  Another friend lost all of his career related gear (guitars, amps, computer, textbooks from GIT)  in an apartment fire a few years ago.  And we’ve all heard stories about the musicians who suffered in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and the benefit concerts that were given so that their instruments could be replaced.

So here’s a question for you…what would happen if your music equipment was stolen, lost in a fire, or destroyed in a natural disaster?  How would you replace it?  Since you make your income from music, homeowners and renters insurance won’t pay out to replace your equipment.  I’ve had too many friends and co-workers who have learned this lesson the hard way!

Watching everything my friend is going through, I cannot tell you how important it is to have an up to date home inventory, with pictures and serial numbers.  My friend spent the better part of a day off of work contacting everyone he had bought equipment from and getting duplicate receipts with serial numbers so he could simply fill out the police report.

Most of us know it is important to keep a home inventory “up to date”, but you many want to re-evaluate and see if yours is still up to date.  You also want to store a copy of your inventory off site.  KnowYourStuff.org allows you to create an online home inventory for free.  This is important to have in case of a disaster like fire, flooding or hurricane.  You can still access your inventory from any location that has working internet.

eHow offered this brief check list of to dos:  (at www.ehow.com/how_2090097_insure-musical-instruments.html)

  1. Consider coverage if your instrument(s) is your livelihood. After all, a professional musician can’t perform without his guitar or her flute. Make sure the policy provides coverage worldwide.
  2. Check your homeowners policy to determine whether it will cover expensive instruments. Most homeowners policies don’t cover all things that can happen to your musical instruments. These policies aren’t designed to protect professional quality or rare equipment.
  3. Select an all risk policy that covers your instrument in almost all circumstances. The coverage may also include reimbursement for renting an instrument while yours is repaired in much the same way that auto insurance covers the cost of a rental car.
  4. Have your instrument appraised if it is unique or expensive. The cost of this vital step will be more than covered if your instrument is damaged or stolen. Keep a copy of the appraisal in a safe place along with a picture and any other documentation you need in case you have to file a claim.
  5. Insure instruments for replacement value rather than for what you paid several years ago. Like everything else, the cost of a good piano or drum set is rising.
  6. Buy from a company that specializes in musical instrument insurance.

I understand MusicPro is an excellent company, and I’ve had their name referred to me many times (www.musicproinsurance.com).  I’ve also heard of Hertiage (www.musicins.com), and Clarion (www.clarionins.com).

I’d love for this blog to evolve into a discussion between the working musicians on this site.  Tell us about who you use for insurance (if anyone) and would you recommend that company. If you do recommend a company, please include their contact information.  Also, I’d love to hear tips on taking a home inventory.

I’ll add these tips to help with the recovery of stolen and lost gear.  First off, I put brightly colored labels on all of my equipment  and on CD cases in plain view.  I apply a big purple label that says “Property of Brittany Frompovich, if found call (insert telephone number).”  That simple step has actually helped many pieces of equipment that were lost on gigs make their way home (mic stands, an eBow, and various CDs.)   Those labels also prevent simple misunderstandings…people won’t accidentally walk off with your mic or mic stand because it looks like their gear.   I get these mailing labels printed at VistaPrint.

In addition to the big purple visible labels, I will take my gear apart and apply regular mailing labels (containing my name address, and telephone) in unusual spots.  For example, I’ll put one in the neck joint of an electric guitar, or under the bridge of an electric bass, or on the inside of the back plate of an effects pedal.  This way, even if the serial number gets obliterated or the instrument gets defaced somehow, I have a way of proving it was mine.

So what insurance companies would you recommend, and why?  And what tips do you have to help with instrument recovery/home inventory?  Let’s get a discussion going on this topic so we can benefit the community at large.

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5 Comments

  1. Britney Bennett

    Just as most people do not adequately back up their computer data until they suffer a loss, most people don’t adequately insure until a catastrophe arrives. That’s unfortunate.

  2. Microphones Guide

    It’s better to be prepared than sorry. Thanks for this enlightening article.

  3. Ronnie Currey (Editor)

    Great article. I was a property adjuster for over twenty years and had to deny coverage on many claims. If you make as much as $1.00 with your instrument, it is considered as business equipment under a homeowner’s policy and not covered. You need a commercial policy or an endorsement to your homeowner’s policy. I also have an endorsement for business liability on my homeowner’s policy in case a student trips and falls on my property.

  4. Brittany Frompovich

    An update on this article. This is from my student who has his PA stolen. In my student’s words:

    “Something I learned during the process is that some jurisdictions look to “intent” and “profitability” to determine business vs. hobby. It isn’t as cut and dry as your one poster said. There may be insurance companies who try that hoping that claimants give up and it looked like USAA tried that approach with me initially. When a manager contacted me, I made it clear that we didn’t always get paid and had no gigs planned. They also asked me about business licenses and tax returns, neither of which I do. The final question from them involved using the gear in non-business settings. I explained to them that I used the gear for jams and other informal get-togethers. Bottom line was that I tried to establish lack of “intent” on making it a business and no plans to make a profit at it.

    Apparently, USAA’s lawyers had my file for a few weeks researching similar cases. I guess it worked in my favor.

    One thing USAA advised me to do was to get liability insurance so that I’m covered at gigs; ie, a drunk trips over a monitor and injures himself. Never mind that he was green to the gills, I shouldn’t have put my monitor where it posed a hazard.”

    We’re going to keep the dialogue going on this as we both continue to learn more.

  5. Drum Kits

    I think there should be provision to insure musical instruments. Its the best idea I have.

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