Life as a professional musician these days often means being self-sufficient, self-sustaining, and self-employed. You may throughout your career work with different bands, be signed to different labels, or work for different companies that help shape the story you tell. One thing that you may not consider until you’ve started to develop your career is the importance of musicians insurance. Whether you’re a band on the road, a studio owner, or a private lesson instructor, several levels of musicians insurance can help ensure that your livelihood is protected.
HIGHWAY TO HELL
Matt Souza, a freelance drummer in the LA area, hit the road with the bandBroke on Friday in 2008 and returned with a tour story that is every musician’s worst nightmare. After a roll of shows in Colorado, the band was driving their rented RV through the desert of Nevada when all of a sudden smoke started billowing out from under the hood. With just enough time to pull off the highway and get everyone moved a safe distance away, the RV exploded into bits and pieces with a mushroom cloud reminiscent of the A-bomb. In the end, the band lost its PA system, generator, and all individual band members their instruments, computers, clothing, etc. There was over $35k in damage, and with no insurance, none of the lost equipment was covered. Matt was kind enough to talk to us about his experience, and what steps could be taken with musicians insurance to prevent running into a situation like this.
IndieAmbassador.com: Prior to going on tour, were there any precautions taken to ensure the protection of your personnel, gear, or transportation?
Matt Souza: No. We were completely ignorant at the time. We had insurance on the RV and just assumed that it covered our gear and belongings.
IA: Were there any telling signs of the coming doom before the explosion?
MS: No! That’s the crazy part. The tour was going great. We’d had no problems with the RV for the entire trip and we were literally 4 hours from our house when all hell broke loose. We honestly didn’t know that it was a legitimate fire until a good samaritan came along and helped us. We thought it was just the radiator smoking!
IA: In your accident, what equipment (if any) was covered by the vehicle’s auto insurance?
MS: Absolutely nothing. We all lost our instruments, our PA system, a brand new gas powered generator we had just purchased for the tour, iPods, Laptops, clothes, shoes, blankets, wallets, toothbrushes, etc. None of it was covered by the RV’s insurance. Not a thing.
IA: With over $35k in damage, what steps were taken to recover the equipment lost in the accident?
MS: Well, we tried everything we could with the insurance company. We talked to about a half dozen people in total. We even sought some legal advice but, in the end, it was all for nothing. We got NONE of our money or gear back. We all had to take personal loans just so we could buy clothes, let alone get new instruments.
IA: In hindsight, is there anything you could have done to prevent the incident?
MS: In hindsight, I guess we could’ve gotten renter’s insurance on our gear and everything else we own. I’m not so certain personally that we would’ve gotten the full value for our stuff, though. In my opinion insurance companies are scam artists… You pay and pay into them every month for your whole life, and when the time comes for you to use that “protection blanket” you’ve been paying into, they do everything in their power to NOT fill your claim. It’s all one big sham that everyone buys into, and in the case of auto insurance, are REQUIRED BY LAW to buy into. That said, it would have been nice to get even SOME money back to purchase new equipment.
IA: What projects are you currently working on in your music career?
MS: Currently I live in LA and am playing with a live karaoke act called ‘With the Band… Karaoke’. I also teach drum lessons privately in my studio and am in the process of building a website with tons of instructional drumming content and internet drum lessons. It should be ready to go in early 2012. It’s called ProDrumInstruction.com. If anyone’s wants more info, they can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taking care of your safety, as well as the safety of your gear before you embark on the road is a process that is often overlooked. As we look into the Insurance Company’s side of things in Part 2 of this article, we’ll be interviewing the Vice President of MusicPro Insurance to clarify what’s covered and what’s not in their various plan offerings. Stay tuned for that interview coming soon!
Indie Ambassador TV is an educational series produced by Indie Ambassador. Through our video panels, industry profiles and articles, artists and music professionals can educate themselves on general business topics, new technology and current industry trends.
Disclaimer: The views reflected in this article are the views of Matt Souza, and do not necessarily reflect those of Indie Ambassador.