If you’ve ever been burned by a thief at a gig, or had your vehicle broken into only to find your favorite guitar stolen:
You Need to Read This If You Play Live
Stories of bands’ gear being stolen while on the road, as happened to Nils Lofgren, Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist, are every musician’s nightmare. This is especially true for bands who are starting out or self-financing their tours, but the sentimental value of guitars is universal, regardless of a band’s success.
What’s more, guitars that come out on tour are particularly precious to the owner. Thankfully, Lofgren’s guitar was found, and the culprit arrested. However, incidents such as these remind us of the importance of being diligent with our gear on the road – no matter how experienced or well-known we are.
In addition to being mindful of how to travel with guitars, there are some key things to prioritize when it comes to looking after equipment and keeping it safe from the clutches of thieving opportunists.
Invest in the right transport
First things first: you need to invest time and money into finding an appropriate motor vehicle to keep your valuables secure. It can be tempting to focus on bagging a bargain that will get you from A to B.
However, car thieves tend to favor older models with old-fashioned technology that is easier to compromise. With this in mind, try not to scrimp when sourcing transport for you and your gear, and go for a modern RV or van that has up-to-date security features.
The latter includes car alarms, which alert the driver of any attempted break in, and which can only be turned off by the driver. Meanwhile, make sure you have enough space in the vehicle to fit all the gear in comfortably and out of sight from onlookers.
Stick to a ‘security’ routine for gigs
To give yourself the best chance of protecting your guitars and gear from thieves, work as a team with your band or crew before and after gigs.
The key is to ensure that someone who is part of your group is with the equipment at all times. For example, when you arrive at a venue, someone should stay with your vehicle and the equipment that is still to be taken through; someone should also stay with all the equipment once it is put down on the stage.
The same principle applies to setting down after a gig. Communicate clearly with anyone in your band or trusted friends in order to be certain that each piece of equipment is being monitored at all times. It may sound cynical, but do not trust people you have never met or do not know well to look after your pride and joy; dollar signs can all too often win over doing the right thing.
Finally, never leave any gear in the vehicle – even if you are not going to be using it. You don’t want to put anything to chance when it comes to leaving your valuables for the evening.
Don’t park in the dark
It may sound obvious, but it’s important to think carefully about where you park your vehicle. If you put yourself into the shoes of a car thief, vehicles parked in quiet, dimly-lit and obscure places are going to be the most appealing.
Even if it means parking a bit further out from the venue than you would like, plump for well-lit roads, and choose a spot near other cars. Meanwhile, it is worth being aware of the states with the highest number of car break-ins and taking extra precautions when it comes to choosing somewhere to park.
Make the most of any contacts you have from the area who can advise you on the most secure places to park your vehicle.
Some final pointers
It doesn’t hurt to put some added security measures in place when it comes to your instruments and accompanying gear. For example, take photos of your guitars, close up and from different angles, and jot down the serial numbers of each guitar.
Should you fall victim to a theft, you can disseminate the pictures and numbers to as many people as possible, making it easier for people to identify your stolen guitar.
Meanwhile, insurance may feel like an unwelcome expense, especially if you’re not making much money from your music, but make sure you get your gear covered.
Even if the insurance company will not pay out in full for a replacement, a contribution will help ease the financial burden of having to buy a new guitar, as well as the stress of the whole experience.