One problem with performing for an audience is that you have to bring your equipment to them, set up, perform and then take everything back again. Some people perform at a location for more than one day and leave their gear set up between performances. Many pieces of equipment are fairly small and easy to steal. Even some things that are quite large are easy to lose if you don't plan your setup/tear-downs and watch your equipment carefully whenever you move things around. This also applies to when you practice or go into a recording studio - any time you take your gear anywhere outside of your home or apartment.
Its easy to own equipment worth in excess of $1,000 (US) per person performing at any given time. Odds are good that the value of your equipment will be much higher than this. Some of your equipment will be small items - microphones, cables, foot switches and stands. Things like Guitars, Keyboards and rack mount gear are also things that can be carried by a single person. Larger items, such as speaker cabinets and amplifiers are often easy for one or 2 people to carry. You can lose any of these if you don't pay attention to them when loading and unloading your gear.
Always report stolen items to the Police. If you don't, you take the risk of it never being found again, as well as the inability to collect on any insurance that you may have on it.
I've lost a number of things over the years, and most have been because I was not able to watch things as well as I should have. People who are on a tour often have no experience with the area that they will be performing at - you really have to plan for the worst-case situation; a lot of touring bands lose gear because they allow themselves to be easy targets - don't allow yourself to be an easy target. The following are some guidelines to consider.
Not everybody offering to help wants to rip you off, but its probably a better idea to pack things up yourself, or use only people that you are already working with. Never let your gear out of your sight, or someone you trust's sight.
If you have homeowners or renters insurance, your equipment is insured as long as it remains on your property. Once you have loaded it in the car/truck/van, you no longer have any protection on your gear (some Auto Insurance policies offer limited protection while the gear is being transported, most don't). Some insurance companies are quite hesitant to insure anything once you take the gear out of your home/apartment. Talk to the agent that you have auto, home or renters insurance with, since you already have a policy with them, they may be able to extend your existing insurance to cover you for performance related gigs. If not, they may be able to reccomend someone who will. It may be expensive to acquire the insurance you need for your musical equipment.
If you are able to get insurance for your gear, you will need to be pro-active and create a detailed inventory of your equipment, including model number, concise photographs, year purchased, and serial numbers. The value that the insurance company will place on the gear will usually be replacement cost, and its age will determine its relative value. It makes no difference to them if you have a 1958 Stratocaster, to them, its just a 30 year guitar, and must have worn out by now (replacement value = nothing). To protect yourself in cases like this, you will need to have some of your gear appraised to determine its replacement value. Some music shops will do this for a fee. Call around and find out who does this. They will associate a condition level and value to any instrument or gear.
Even if you have an appraisal, any claims against its loss will be re-evaluated as part of the process. Some instruments value may have gone down since your appraisal, and unless you can prove otherwise, the insurance company will pay out the the least amount of money it has to.
If you are negligent in your actions to protect your gear, the insurance company may not pay at all. Read your policy information and ask plenty of questions. No matter what you do, you will always need to protect and watch out for your equipment anytime you perform live, practice or go to a recording session at some location other than your own home/apartment.
Transparencies (slides) have the advantage that they can be projected onto a screen at life size. This can be particularly important if your gear is very expensive, vintage or custom manufactured for you. In some cases where serial numbers have been removed by the person who stole the equipment, grain patterns in the wood have been able to identify specific instruments - things of this nature may be impossible to do if all you have is a small print to work from. You can always make regular prints from slide film. If you have exceptionally valuable equipment, take a set of slides and also make prints. If you travel or tour, keep a set of these prints with you in a safe place (not with the gear). Lock the negatives or original slides in a safe place. Digital Camera images are probably not high enough resolution for this, and since digital images can be manipulated, its possible that your insurance company may reject anything that is not based on film stock.
Closely photograph any identifying marks on an instrument. For acoustic instruments, such as guitars, violins, voilas, cellos, etc. make sure that you have a clear photo of the identifying label that is on the inside of the instrument (should be in the sound-hole or f-hole). Brass or silver instruments are hard to photograph without glare, however make sure that any engraving is photographed for your records. If there is damage of any sort, photograph this as well. Any of these details may help you recover your equipment if it is stolen.
Photographs should be taken against a contrasting background. For example, if you have a brown guitar, cover a table with a light colored sheet (yellow, or blue) and photograph it laying on this sheet. You will need to have photos that clearly show the instrument with a non-distracting background. The picture should include text on a piece of white paper, or a marker board that indicates the date the photo is being taken, along with the serial number of the equipment. It should also include something that is used to measure with (ruler, yardstick, etc.) that has clear markings on it. Photos of this nature are for inventory purposes, they will be bland and very simple in nature. They should not include any people holding the objects, unless there is no other way to hold the equipment for the photo.
Photos taken of live performances using the equipment may be of value in case there is some doubt that you actually use a given piece of gear, but otherwise not exceptionally valuable for identification purposes. Inventory photographs, bills of sale and appraisals are the most important information required.
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