As an insurance brokerage, of course we’re interested in helping our musician customers protect their instruments, thereby avoiding the need for any claims. Let’s begin with a few general musical instrument protection tips, then move into discussing some specific instruments and how to protect them: electronic keyboards, guitars and drums.
In some musical instrument claims that we’ve seen, the insured’s vehicle window was smashed. Presumably, this happened after the thief noticed that there was valuable gear inside. A simple way to reduce the likelihood of this happening would be to invest in tinted windows or low-cost security film if you’re going to keep gear in your vehicle. This helps keep your instruments out of sight and, therefore, out of mind. Additionally, if your vehicle has a back door or window, back it up against a wall to make it difficult for someone to enter from the rear. Have someone watching your van or trailer during load-in and load-out at all times. Vancouver, in particular, is notorious for thieves targeting gear being transferred into a venue from the laneway when the van is left alone for mere seconds.
In terms of protecting your instrument at airports and on planes: Rule No. 1 is to never check instruments with your luggage, unless it’s impossible to transport as hand luggage. Keep watch on your instrument while in the airport terminal. Consider using a Velcro strap to attach it to your trolley to prevent a snatch-and-grab. Hiding a Tile or similar tracker in your cases results in a good recovery rate for stolen gear. These products are especially valuable for vintage gear.
Consider transferring the risk of damage to your gear to an insurance policy. $10,000 of gear coverage can be purchased online in about five minutes, for about $130, for 12 months of protection for SOCAN members. You can get it here.
Protecting your Electronic Keyboard
Where to keep your keyboard? According to Yamaha, a room with relative humidity between 40 and 45 percent is ideal for keyboards. Avoid placing the keyboard outside, or near openings to the outside that expose it to sunlight, dust, or climate changes.
Use a multimeter to check if the electrical outlet you’re plugging the keyboard into is supplying the proper voltage recommended by your keyboard’s manufacturer. If it isn’t, try a different outlet. Multimeters can generally be purchased at Home Depot for about $30. Always turn the keyboard off before you unplug it, and unplug it when you’re not playing it.
Use a regular cotton cloth to clean the keyboard. Do not use a thinner, as that can remove the printing and even damage the (usually plastic) body.
If you’re touring, always use a high-quality carrying case such as a hard-bodied, foam-lined, locking Pelican case that protects against impact & moisture, and keep the keyboard covered with dust covers when not in use.
A seemingly innocuous action, like placing one’s drink atop a keyboard panel, can result in said drink eventually spilling and short-circuiting the keyboard. Insurance claims often occur after absent-minded actions such as this. So, put any nearby drinks on a side table, not on top of the keyboard panel.
Protecting your Guitar
Where to keep your guitar? Store your guitar in a room closer to the center of the building rather than near an outside wall. This helps maintain a constant temperature. Store the guitar in its case, standing up or on edge – never lying down – to prevent it from being stepped on. Also, loosen its strings one or two half-steps while the guitar is in storage.
While performing on stage, set your guitar in an area where it is less likely to be knocked into by passers-by, and try to set up your guitar last because, generally speaking, the less time an instrument is onstage, the less risk there is of potential damage.
Even if you sit while playing, having a strong strap is an intelligent precaution that can prevent your guitar from dropping to the ground. But don’t wear a belt buckle while the guitar is strapped on – belt buckles often cause unfortunate scratches and dings on a guitar. Or untuck your shirt to act as a buffer between your belt buckle and the back of the guitar.
Keeping your strings clean will help protect them; you can make the life of your strings last longer by wiping them down with a cloth or towel after playing. For guitars with steel strings, putting 70-90 percent isopropyl rubbing alcohol on the towel to help clean the strings is generally considered a best practice.
If traveling with your guitar, consider stuffing its case with some extra padding (e.g., socks, towels, other fabrics) to pack it in tightly and prevent slippage.
Protecting your Drums
Where to keep your drums? If you’re storing drums for an extended period, leaving the heads on under moderate tension would be best for them, and help keep them in shape. Look into getting some hard cases with polyethylene shells for each drum. Extreme temperature changes can cause drums to grow or shrink slightly in size, so storing them in a room where the temperature won’t change dramatically is ideal.
If you’re touring on your own, you’ll want bring your drums in bags with high-quality zippers and some padding. You’ll then want to look into using fiber cases, or the aforementioned polyethylene cases. Remember to label each case with your contact information.
Of course, when it comes to flying, drums would have to be an exception to the above rule to “never check instruments with your luggage.” But rather than checking it as regular excess baggage, you could consider flying your drums as air freight cartage. This may cost a little more, but it adds the benefit of having your gear handled more professionally. Otherwise, you could always look into just renting a drum kit in the area of your gig instead of flying your own kit across the country.
Consider Front Row Instrument Insurance
Front Row Insurance is a brokerage specializing in entertainment-related risks. We have a simple online instrument program available 24/7 for SOCAN members – no need to talk to a broker. Custom packages include tour liability, and coverage for recording studios. We have offices in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Halifax, Los Angeles, New York City, and Nashville. Our staff of 50-plus people have a combined 510 years of insurance experience. Front Row provides fast, affordable musical instrument insurance for Canada’s music professionals who are Canadian resident members of SOCAN. Read more about the program here.
About Grant Patten
Grant Patten is Vice President, Marketing, at Front Row Insurance. Grant has an insurance background with about 6 years of experience at CSIO, where he did plenty of marketing communications work for that organization. Grant has also worked as a Technical Writer at CIBC, and as a Research Assistant at the University of Toronto. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Film Studies (Ryerson University) and a master’s degree in Information Studies (University of Toronto). He is also a Project Management Professional (PMP)®.