Every band has a story of their equipment being stolen while they are on the road.
I have heard of prized guitars disappearing after being left unattended for one second. Bands I have been in have had effects pedals grabbed from the front of the stage, jackets stolen from dressing rooms, windows of buses smashed and everything at hand pinched from the seat. One band I produced had their whole trailer stolen, leaving them on tour with no equipment.
The truth is your possessions are always vulnerable when you’re on the road. It is hard to be vigilant at all times, but the one time you say, “It’ll be alright” is always the time someone takes advantage.
Do Your Homework
It is not just random opportunists you have to be aware of. A colleague once told me a story about a venue that was in cahoots with a nearby hotel. The band’s room was entered while they slept and wallets, money and other belongings were pounced upon.
Do as much as you can to vet the places you’re staying on tour. You can check hotel reviews on Yelp and Google in advance, these can tell you a lot about the reputation and safety of where you will be staying.
Before you go on tour, take pictures of all your equipment, with serial numbers visible. Back the pictures up somewhere that can be accessed when you are on the road – upload it to a photobucket account or email yourself jpegs. That way if anything goes missing, you can issue photos of the stolen items.
Keep Everything Close
I always have one rule for myself when I go on stage, and that is to take the essential things – my wallet, IDs and passport – up with me. Venues are notoriously bad at keeping their backstage areas safe. Sure, if you are playing the local enormodome, then they will have a bunch of UFC fighters manning every entrance, but at the local dive, your dressing room is often an unused kitchen or a broom closet. If you can get a key to lock your dressing room, then do it. Most of the time you might be sharing a room, too, so be smart.
If the room you’re staying in can’t be secured, then get friendly with the staff and ask if there is a safe place for anything valuable you have. A lot of the time they have an office that is always locked and you may be able to keep a bag there until the end of the night. If you can’t, the safest place for your laptop, phone, or backpack is also on stage with you. Keep everything in a bag, and tuck it behind your amps.
Securing the Band Wagon
When you reach the hotel after the show, your number one priority should be finding secure parking. In fact, you should have already asked the venue the best place to leave the van. They will know the area and which spots will leave your vehicle at risk.
Leave your van in a well lit place, and back its rear doors up against a wall whenever possible. If the hotel car park has a camera, ask them where to park so your van will be in view. Give them a CD in return.
Wait…Where’s the Gear?!
It is a horrible feeling when something gets stolen. It was there a second ago, and you’ve retraced your steps, but sure enough, it’s gone. What do you do?
Quite frankly, you are fucked if this happens. You probably have to leave for your next show right away, and you don’t have time to scour the area’s music stores and pawn shops in the slim hopes of finding your equipment. If you happen to have insurance, then another nightmare has just begun.
But that doesn’t mean you should admit defeat. Try to tap as many people as you can in your quest to get your gear back. You will find that this is one situation where people are happy to help a band out.
First, take care of the necessities of filing a police report and calling the venue to let them know happened. They might be able to call around for you, or at least give you a tip about where the equipment might be offloaded. Use social media to put the word out and get your fans looking for you. Make it a street team mission. Offer what you can as a reward. Call the local newspapers and make it a story. The more publicity you get, the more likely someone will recognize your equipment. Deal with the loss of your gear like you would treat the publicizing of a record release.
Depending on what’s gone missing, you will have to find replacements, so phone ahead to your next gig. Maybe another band on the bill for the next show can lend you equipment. Again, use social media to ask for help. If you are lucky enough to have endorsements, then the company may be able to help you out.
Whatever you do, don’t quit. Do anything you can to make the next show happen.