Most musicians don’t think of it, most I’ve met don’t even do it, some are under the impression their homeowners will cover it, but insuring your instruments is critical to the livelihood of a musician. There are a lot of catches to insurance and exactly what is covered, and it’s time we spent a little discussion on the topic. I’m not an expert, there are still some questions hanging out there, so as we network with some insurance agents, I’ll update this as I learn.
So what is insurance? There are many forms of insurance, from the extended warranty you buy with your gear, to your homeowners and renters insurance, to band and other insurance. Let’s take them individually.
The extended warranty you get from a retailer is likely handled by a third party, which works in many industries. Their products may include accidental damage handling, periodic maintenance, and repair costs, but there are catches. If you play in a band, you’ll want to be sure commercial use is covered. If you’re playing commercially, you subject your gear to a lot more risk of damage and accident, and wear and tear. If you’re a restaurant and you have speakers playing music every hour, it’s different than if you only have them on for a few hours a week.You’ll want to know whether commercial use is covered, and commercial use is pretty broadly defined. If you’re passing a tip jar around at a coffee house, this is commercial use.
Many of these commercial extended warranties will at the very least work with manufacturers warranty and cover and extend those same points. Accidental damage is never going to be covered by a manufacturer, and that accidental damage coverage is usually the bulk of the claims. Let’s face it, we’re pretty good at building things these days no matter where it’s made. Manufacturers tend to build reliable products, most of the breakage is self-inflicted. You’ll want to be sure of what is considered accidental damage, and what will be covered. The fine print might give you some pause. Often, a power surge, flood damage, and other events termed “acts of god” will not be covered, neither will car accidents. Some extended warranties might cover these. The more they cover, the more they cost. Accidents usually must be “within normal use,” and they will be the ones telling you what constitutes normal use.
As a product, these are all designed to make money for the insurer and retailer, which is not to say that they aren’t useful. They’ve come through for many people many times, and have their place in the market.
Then there’s homeowner’s and rentals policies, including car insurance. These policies are designed to cover your stuff in case of burglary, fire or disaster in a residential setting. That’s one of the big keys, residential setting. They cover everything you might want, theft, fire, anything, but if you’re at a gig, you aren’t covered. Doesn’t even matter if it’s one of those for exposure or charity kinds of things. If something is stolen on one of these gigs, and you aren’t covered correctly, you’re out of luck. Same goes with car insurance. If your car is broken into, and it doesn’t really matter if you’re on a gig, and something is stolen, you’re just out of luck. In an accident, you have gear broken, insurance will cover it, but you have to provide the gear as evidence. The insurance will cover a certain amount of property damage.
With your homeowners insurance, you aren’t covered unless you get a separate waiver for individual instruments. This is one of the points where your gearbox can come in. If your gear is lost in a fire, a disaster, anything, you have a record of what you had, photos, serials, and everything, safe and secure with us and accessible anywhere. But there is another problem. Some instruments need more than just a listing and a valuation, particularly Vintage instruments. If you have a vintage instrument, where value varies widely by condition and original equipment, you will want an independent valuation on file before anything happens. Without that valuation, your insurer will wither write down the value or refuse to pay out.
Which brings us to a commercial band setting. Insure your gear. If you can’t afford to insure your gear, you shouldn’t be playing out. Don’t think it won’t happen to you. It will. Either theft, or a car accident, your van starting on fire, all of them lead to one thing: you losing your gear when you need it most. We can step in, try to find your gear, but that will take days to years. You need that now. Insure your gear. Know what you have, and be covered. As an example, know someone who had a commercially insured Taylor guitar, and it was $30 per year. Not horrible. It gets stolen, he’d replace it. To him it was a product, not a unique beast. It would be nice if it was like this for all of us, but if I lost my vintage bass that I’ve owned for 22 years, that’s a different story. Here’s the thing, if your guitar is stolen, you take a payout, we find it and recover it, that guitar is bought and property of the insurer. We’ll try to work with the insurance on this point as we grown, get you the option to pay it back and keep the instrument, but this remains to be seen.
This is a summary of insurance, and hopefully this helps a few of you out as you consider your options.