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How to Protect Your Gear from Theft - Network4Musicians


How to Protect Your Gear from Theft

How-to Articles ◦ Gear
Created by: Connor Gilkinson
Thu, May 08 2014
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Lately it seems there's been a lot of gear stolen from both local bands (including my own) and internationally renowned artists (Guthrie Govan, Animals as Leaders, Alexisonfire) in the news lately, and I thought it would be a good idea to share what I've done to prevent my gear getting stolen and the best ways to ensure if it is stolen, you can get it back. It's not only your possessions that are taken from you, but for many of us it's the way we earn our living. We've put so much time, money and work into our craft that it's essential we take the necessary precautions to protect out equipment.

1) Keep a List of Serial Numbers

If you're not doing this already, you need to. Having the serial numbers for all of your gear ensures that if your instruments show up in a pawn shop, Craigslist, eBay etc. you can identify the exact item as yours. Knowing the year and description of the gear is great, but a serial number makes sure there is no doubt in anyone mind about whether or not it is yours. At the every least you can give these to the police to keep in their records so if they ever find your gear they'll know it's yours. It's also worth mentioning that you shouldn't post serial numbers online, in pictures or text, just to be safe. If your stolen gear turns up you don't want someone taking the picture you posted online of it and claiming it as their own. This doesn't happen often, but it's worth knowing about.

2) Keep Updated Pictures of Your Gear
While serial numbers are fantastic, pictures of the gear and pictures of the serial numbers on your gear as well. This way you have another layer of proof, and the more evidence of ownership you have, the better. Every bit counts. Plus this also documents any identifying marks, scratch, dings, paint jobs, stickers, whatever you may have. Be thorough and get several angles. Which brings me to my next point...

3) Mark and Customize It

If your gear doesn't have anything visually different from every other brand/model then change that. Stickers are cool, and will leave residue when you peel them off (so thieves will have a hard time getting rid of them) but I also understand a lot of us are very hesitant to do that to our "precious" equipment. In that case, another idea is to take glow in the dark paint and make a mark on your equipment. You will know it's there, but no one else will unless you're under UV lights,especially if you put it in a strategic place that minimizes people seeing it when you go from a bright stage to a dark alley when you load up your gear. You don't want anyone else knowing about that mark!! For those of us who don't want to go too nuts on marking up our stuff, rather than mark your gear with stickers or spray paint, do something cool with it involving parts. I got some of the plastic cavity covers on my guitar engraved with my name. I also put in new pickups which happen to look different than the stock ones, which is helpful if it gets stolen. I also changed the volume and tone knobs to different ones than the stock guitar to help with that. You don't have to "ruin" your instrument to mark it properly. Try different parts than the stock model. That way you can not only make your gear unique, you can also upgrade any parts that may not be good enough for your liking.

4) Cases Are Just As Important As Gear

Mark your cases too! I cannot emphasize how important this it. If you label all the cases you have, that's a very big drawback for thieves. Sometimes gear is stolen without the case, but if it's stolen in the case you'll be happy you did this. Worst case scenario they sell your gear but not your cases, but most thieves will probably realize they won't get far with gear that you have marked with your name/logo on it, especially when you are playing a show filled with people that recognize your name, your logo, your band, and more importantly who's NOT in your band. Thieves probably aren't going to be carrying your violin around town without a case, so slap on some markings so they can't use the case to hide their stolen items. Make a stencil, spray paint something onto your gear. I just recently put a mark on all my cases, turned out pretty well!

5) Locks and Security Tools

I've got locks on all my cases and keep the keys on me at all times, as should you, right next to the house and car keys. This way not only are things locked properly but no one else has the key besides me, ever. There are also several products for protecting specific items such as the Rock Lock for guitars. There are also companies that sell GPS tracking devices as small as a coin (for surprisingly cheap too) that you can stick in the back of your guitar, or tape to the inside of your amp and track from your phone. Do some research and you'd be surprised what else is out there to protect your gear.


6) Keep It Hidden

When you're out, make sure that if your gear isin your car it's covered by a blanket or towel, or keep it in your trunk. If you have to leave it at a jam space or venue while you grab lunch before a show for example, put it in a room that's out of the way such as your green room instead of leaving it in the corner of the stage. Sometimes though it can be easier to leave it out in the open so that any staff can keep an eye on it, and letting someone know you're leaving it there for a while is helpful, but you can't always count on other people to watch it for you. Ask a staff member to lock up a room with your band's gear while you go grab food, or ask if you can put it backstage behind some boxes, out of sight.

7) File a Police Report

This should be obvious, but I can't tell you how many times people I know have gotten their gear stolen and have NOT filed a police report. Most people get a few pedals or a guitar stolen and they just think that's where it ends, there's nothing they can do about it or that the police won't be able to find it. One very important reason to file a police report is that if your gear is stolen by a thief or group of thieves who have been stealing for quite a while and the police arrest them, they cannot return your stuff to you because you have not reported it missing. That stuff stays on record for a very long time, so even if you give up on it

8) Alert Other Establishments

If your equipment is stolen the first thing you should do is call the police and file a report, the second thing you should do is notify every pawn shop, music store, and rehearsal space in the area of the theft. Send them the serial numbers and pictures via email or fax, or even in person. Good thing you used tips 1 and 2 huh? It should also be noted that many of these establishments do not have an email or fax that you can reach them at, so you should make posters or flyers and put them up anywhere you can.

9) Get Insurance

Many companies these days offer insurance on your gear. Some of us don't have money for this and that's understandable, but at the very least covering your favorite, most expensive, or most essential pieces of gear will give you incredible peace of mind. Too many people assume their gear is covered by their home or auto insurance, and not only are they wrong the vast majority of the time, but even when it is covered there is a very low limit on how much you are able to get from your insurance company. Losing $5,000 in gear and finding out your insurance will only cover up to a $500 limit is not something you want to be surprised with.

10) Contact Information

Make sure you put your contact information in all of your cases. If you feel like doing even more, then put your contact information on your actual gear. Even taping a business card or scrap piece of paper with your information on it will work. Keep them in all of your cases and it'll make sure that if it gets stolen or even if you lose it, you have a better chance of it being returned to you. It's a slim chance, but every bit counts.

11) Don't Think It Won't Happen To You

This is probably the most important tip. Remember that it can happen to anyone, and the more time you spend on protecting your gear, the harder it will be for anyone to get away with stealing it. Be smart, be cautious.

Hopefully this article has given you some ideas on how to keep your gear safe, and at the end of the day the last thing any musician wants is to be without our instruments. Use these tips to give yourself peace of mind so that you can focus on the music, and not have to worry about your equipment.

A few pointers on minimizing the risk of your gear getting stolen, and ensuring that if it is stolen you can get it back.


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