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CALL SECURITY

May 1, 2007
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Below is the extended online-only version of Remix Magazine's Call Security article.

No doubt you''ve invested a lot of dough in your home studio. In fact, it''s probably worth more than the rest of your stuff put together, especially when you figure in any income generated from it. Unfortunately, there are far too many scumbags out there looking to jack your gear. Everyone in music has either had things stolen or knows someone who has. So if you haven''t done it yet, feel the paranoia now and develop a full-protection plan against theft, as well as accidental damage. This includes insurance, security and some preventive measures.

The following information is for guidance only, and is not intended as legal or insurance advice on your specific policy. All insurance policies terms and conditions must be followed, or claims may be rejected. Always contact your insurance broker to confirm questions about your policy.

STUDIO INSURANCE

Most homeowners/tenants policies offer $1,000 to $2,000 worth of coverage for “business tools,” and only while the equipment is located at the principal residence. Musical instruments and related computer gear are the business tools of professional musicians, and most musicians travel. Whether or not you consider yourself a professional is up to you, but most insurance companies wouldn''t view a room full of pro toys and you churning out CDs for sale as much of a hobby.

You can schedule specific instruments (that is, those of very high value or collector status) for a valued amount within your policy, in which case the item will be covered for all risks (theft or damage) and subject to no deductible, no matter where it travels. Not surprisingly, costs for this added service run in the $2 to $3 per $100 worth of coverage annually.

“Under a homeowners/tenants policy, there is typically no coverage for business tools while in transit or at temporary locations,” says Andrew Lloyd, a personal lines and commercial broker with Instar Insurance. “These coverages could be sought under a commercial policy, which is an entirely different product.”

Quite often, the language of an insurance policy can leave the reader wondering exactly what is and what is not covered, depending on the semantics. For example, one policy may refer to “electronics” generally, while another talks of “computers and peripherals” more specifically. Even basic home studio setups have dozens of hardware components that bridge the gap between computers and what''s conventionally thought of as home electronics, so you''ll want to make sure that a potential insurance adjuster would value these items and apply them within the policy you take out. Once again, Lloyd suggests the best way to do this is through scheduling the specialized items for a valued amount.

“Should the reader choose not to schedule these items, at least ensure that the policy limits will cover the replacement cost of these items, and all other contents in the residence,” says Lloyd.

Maintaining accurate policy limits and replacement costs is important, and underinsuring is a bad idea. Most policies are co-insured, which is simply an agreement between you and the insurance company whereby you agree to maintain insurance up to a stated percentage (80, 90 or 100 percent) of the actual value. In return, the insurer will pay a loss, in full, up to your policy limits. If you don''t carry the required amount of insurance, you will have to pay a part of the loss yourself, and that can easily be in the thousands of dollars for a home studio full of instruments and electronics.

One way you can try to save on your premium is by insuring your hardware items only, and storing original software discs with their authorization codes offsite. For software requiring USB dongles, keep these keys in a fire-safe deposit box, hidden within the house, when not in use. This way, should your system be stolen, your dongles won''t be, and your current software may be easily re-installed on another system, without inflating your monthly insurance payments.

Due to the economies of scale, it''s advantageous for bands to purchase property insurance as a whole, rather than it being incumbent upon individual members to buy their own. That could be as simple as a policy to cover property housed at a common rehearsal/recording space (even if it''s one member''s house), or as elaborate as a policy purchased under the group''s legal entity. Several insurance companies, such as Chubb (www.chubb.com), specialize in professional entertainment and touring.

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ROAD INSURANCE

Most residential contents policies have what''s known as “mobile coverage,” where insurers will cover your contents while temporarily away from the residence—ideal for taking your gear to a rehearsal space or studio across town for the afternoon. But remember, there''s often no coverage for “business tools” in transit. So be sure to check the wording of your policy closely and ask your broker how your traveling gear fits into the picture.

In my own homeowner''s policy, property may be insured only to a maximum of 30 days while on the road. I also noticed that musical equipment is not covered while in transit if it is being used for remuneration. That would certainly hurt a DJ or musician performing at paying gigs. Sometimes even determining what or whose insurance prevails can often be tricky once things leave the house. For example, if your car gets broken into at a gig, is it the “mobile” clause of your homeowner/tenants insurance or your vehicle “contents” insurance that covers the loss?

“If it was a paying gig, and the items were scheduled to value under a homeowners/tenants policy for professional use, the stolen gear would be covered under that policy,” Lloyd notes. “Automobile contents coverage does not typically respond to theft claims of this nature.”

Alternatively, what if you''re at the venue and equipment is stolen while you''re enjoying a beer at the bar? Typically, the venue owner''s commercial insurance will not cover your property, but that doesn''t mean that it can''t. If you''re booked to play consecutive nights and are leaving your gear, Lloyd suggests asking the owner to have you listed on his commercial policy as an “additional insured” while you are engaged at the venue—from setup to tear down. “This won''t cost the venue owner a thing, so don''t pay a dime,” Lloyd warns. And ask for a Certificate of Insurance; that is proof the venue owner has valid insurance at a specific liability limit. With the performer''s name on the certificate, any actions made against the performer, for the period they have the liability coverage, would be responded to by the venue owner''s policy. That is at no cost to the band and provides instant liability coverage for any drunk dancers who trip over your monitor wedges.

Policies also have stipulations as to how equipment becomes damaged—an “act of God,” a third-party or user error, equipment shorts, power-grid blowouts, etc. All too often bands complain that their gear got toasted by a faulty electrical. Check the perils insured under your policy with your broker, as well as any exclusions.

SECURITY

Because many studios are located where we live, home-security systems often act as the first line of defense against theft and burglary. But if installation logistics or cost of a monitored system is prohibitive, the right software and an inexpensive Webcam or two might be all you need to enjoy some peace of mind while you''re away.

After investigating Webcams for my own studio, Netcam Watcher Professional ($119; PC only) from Beausoft Corporation (www.beausoft.com) provided the best features, though there are other more affordable/free solutions available. With support for hundreds of makes and models of network cameras, I went with the Panasonic BL-C10 ($199.95) Ethernet camera. The BL-C10 is a bit pricey, but I chose it for its motorized pan/tilt function, so I could position it at the entrance to the studio and watch both the room and the external hallway simply by navigating the camera. Additionally, the low-profile wall-mount design, thermal- and motion-sensing capabilities, 640 x 480 sharp image quality and excellent handling of dim lighting were just what I needed. Now I can check in on the studio over the Internet from any Web browser, receive e-mail notification of any movement and, together with the software, record full-motion time-stamped video and still photos for police evidence. It even allows me to draw “masks,” so that a tree swaying in the breeze outside the studio won''t falsely trigger the motion detector.

To secure gear on the road, one of the most cost-effective solutions is to attach a security cable such as the Kensington MicroSaver series ($29.99 to $69.99; www.kensington.com) of keyed and combo-lock laptop security devices. Those only work as well as the table or solid object that they''re secured to and are not infallible. More and more electronic gear, such as drum pads and DJ controllers, include the Kensington universal security slot, but for rest of the gear, you''ll want to use motion-sensor technology such as that in the Samsonite Carrying Case Alarm (www.samsonite.com) or the Kryptonite series of 110 dB alarms from Fellowes (www.fellowes.com). Each can be found on eBay for fewer than $10.

PROACTIVE MEASURES

A regular backup schedule will protect you from theft as well as fire and equipment failure. I took this one step further and invested in a NAS (Network Attached Storage) drive for my studio. The Maxtor/Seagate Shared Storage II drive provides 1 TB of Ethernet-accessible storage for sample libraries, project audio- and session-file backups. Because it''s hooked up to a router, the files can be shared between my MacBook Pro, G5 and PC. I hid it in an inconspicuous and hard-to-access location.

It''s also a great idea to snap digital photos or video of your gear and store them along with sales receipts and serial numbers in a safety deposit box or at an offsite location. Insurance companies and police use photos to identify gear, so use a ruler in the shot to illustrate dimensional perspective. Speaking of which, most PDs will lend you engraving machines so you can put police ID numbers and stickers on all your equipment—another theft deterrent.

Before setting out on a gig, prepare special back-up CDs of all the music to be played, as well as any necessary or required computer files such as automation files, hardware sampler files, soundtracks played during breaks, etc.

At the venue, check with the manager that storage rooms are locked at all times. Do they have full-time security staff to watch your items? In the parking lot, common sense tells you to lock car doors and windows, and in the case of vans or SUVs, keep equipment out of sight with lock-down covers or blankets. Alarms and immobilizers (electronic and/or steering-wheel “clubs”) also deter thieves. A locking shackle bolt should attach trailers, and always park with the door access blocked against a wall.

If traveling by air, train or bus, you should contact your carrier well ahead of time, tell them the dimensions of your gear and ask if it can be taken onboard. Always keep your laptop and/or backup disks on your person. Should you be required to check your equipment, ask if the carrier''s liability covers the full replacement cost and be upfront about its value. If you need to purchase additional insurance, do so. The claims process can be very slow—sometimes months—which could ruin a whole tour.

“You are better off buying whatever it is you need as soon as you land,” Lloyd says. “If you are not in a position to replace the equipment immediately, make an arrangement with a performer in the area to borrow their equipment so you can still play. It may only cost you a couple rounds of drinks!”

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