If the studio owner hadn’t been paying attention, that close call could have turned into something far worse. Here are a few studio security tips that will hopefully keep you out of harm’s way.
-Clear brush and anything else around your property where a burglar could hide and work unseen. Make sure the studio’s perimeter is well-lit; the more visible and exposed a thief is when trying to break into your place, the less he’s going to like it, and the greater the odds he’ll look elsewhere. Motion-triggered lights add an element of surprise if the thief isn’t expecting to have the lights go on suddenly.
-A centrally monitored alarm system usually costs under $50 a month, and sometimes results in lower insurance rates. Consider wiring some select items of gear to the system so that removing them triggers an instant silent “panic” alarm. Harden the phone lines — either lock the box, or install a backup cell phone dialer in case the landline’s cut.
-Dogs intimidate the bad guys and sound off when they see a threat or a stranger approaching. If you have a residential studio, consider getting one — but only if you’re willing to care for it properly.
-Cameras, peepholes, and door intercoms allow you to see and communicate with who’s out there without directly exposing yourself. Additionally, there are systems that allow you to visually monitor the activities inside the studio from anywhere in the world over the net, which can be great peace of mind when you travel. Even Target sells them now: Go to www.target.com and enter “Sylvania internet camera” in the search box.
-Know your neighbors, and ask them to keep an eye on things. If there’s a Neighborhood Watch program in your area, get involved.
-Install heavy-duty, anti-tamper locks and strike plates.
-Get a security assessment from a qualified security company, but check them out with the Better Business Bureau and your local law enforcement agency before inviting them over. And get to know the local police officers; the better you know them, and more importantly, the better they know and like you, the better off you’ll be if you ever need their help.
-Stay current on your local studio scene. Report suspicious activities to the local police and other local studios; encourage them to do the same.
-Get Caller ID on your phone. Screen clients and calls and make a note of phone numbers on all incoming calls.
-Meet with new prospective clients at a neutral location, such as a local coffee shop. Get their contact info and verify their identification (e.g., driver’s license) before allowing them studio access. Background checks aren’t too expensive, either.
-Referrals from people you trust are frequently less risky than new, unknown “cold call” clients. Encourage referrals and do what you can to develop repeat customers. It’s not just good for security, it’s good business.
-Balance your need to advertise with security. Large signs that say “recording studio” and gear boxes left in the trash let the bad guys know there’s probably valuable gear on-site.
-Don’t broadcast or announce all of your security measures. Any defense can be countered, and if the crooks know what your security measures are, they can plan how to overcome them.
-Limit the entourage. You’re running a studio, not a clubhouse. Whenever possible, discourage people outside of the band from attending sessions.
-Beware of “inside jobs.” Check the references of anyone you might hire to work at your studio, including cleaning companies, maintenance and repair shops, and anyone who will have access to your studio. If you have employees, re-key the locks and change any alarm codes whenever anyone resigns or is fired.
-Small, easily concealed items like stompboxes and microphones can “walk away” if you don’t lock them up when unused. At the end of sessions, do a “walk-through” of the entire studio before the clients leave so that they “don’t forget any of their stuff” — which also lets you make sure that all of your stuff is still where it should be.
-Keep your eyes open, and trust your intuition. When in doubt, pass on the prospective client. You don’t have to be paranoid, but be aware of your surroundings and any developing situations. If you feel you’re being cased, call the police.
It’s never fun to think about these kinds of issues, but be careful — there are people who would rather steal what you have than work to earn it for themselves. And while insurance can replace stolen gear, you never know when the pizza box may have a gun inside of it instead of a late night snack . . . and your life can’t be replaced.