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Whether we’re talking about our vintage Martin, our one top-shelf condenser mic or that Echoplex we managed to get restored into working order, often times about the only really nice things we have in this world are our beloved tools of the trade. Such seemingly spiritual value is indeed inspiring and often the catalyst to creativity, but the thought of losing such sentimental belongings is downright depressing … hence the need for at least the monetary comforts of insurance, especially when it comes to your home studio. I recently realized my “most coveted” (I hope I’m not sounding like Hannibal Lecter here) belongings were not really insured at all, and I set out to find an affordable solution.
Most of us can wrap a particular instrument into our homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies without much difficulty. But musical instruments (and valuable electronics) are typically covered only up to a certain moderate value and particularly valuable pieces require itemization … such costs are not terribly attractive (and can easily cost as much as the rest of the entire policy). Sometimes our property coverage extends in part to our cars and vehicles, but an oddly named (and typically expensive) “inland marine policy” is needed for complete coverage while belongings are in-transit or away from home. Most importantly, homeowner’s or renter’s property coverage does not cover business property or professional usage.
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I’m not touring anymore, so my personal concerns were about the insurance of my project studio, but the issue is the same … home owner’s/renter’s coverage either does not cover small business at all, or caps coverage at a low $2,500 (and that often requires a special clause and fee). I’ve heard and made some of the excuses myself … “it’s not a true business, I don’t make any money at it”, or “it’s only a hobby, just buddies and beer”, or “I do this in my home, so I shouldn’t need a separate policy” … but insurers are wise to such excuses and have an easy tool to disprove these claims: the Internet. We’ve all heard of clever cops finding the bad guy via their stupid social media postings and it’s parallel for the modern claim adjuster; a quick Google of your name, identify your business/band name, ten minutes of searching Facebook/Twitter/Instagram and there’s ample proof that what you’re doing is much more than a hobby … and simply not covered.
A once sparse field of insurers has grown considerably and I now found ample insurance choices for studios of all sizes, including equipment property coverage, actual property coverage and liability coverage. Most policies covered gear and instruments, although some required itemizing of instruments valued over $5k. Some insurers wanted exacting lists of items, serial numbers, their replacement value and insisted on covering the value of the entire collection (no partial coverage). Some insurers offered liability and property together, while others allowed one or the other. Only a few rare instrument policies covered flooding, which is a completely separate issue (typically) in the world of insurance.
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I’ll pass along some numbers here to help illustrate how affordable the choices I found were. Of course, your costs will vary, and I will not publish the exact quotes by any of the providers and I am not providing legal advice.
You can get a low-cost low-coverage renter’s policy for a home or apartment for as little $175 a year, but that wouldn’t provide any actual coverage for a professional musician or home studio. I had such coverage and also itemized coverage for about $30k of high-cost studio pieces (in hindsight … to make myself feel protected even if I really wasn’t) which took it up to about $350 a year. My new studio policy covers nearly $100k worth of equipment, $1M of liability, covers a number of “breakage and/or loss of use” issues and even includes a minimal inland-marine policy (seriously, what a bizarre name) all for about $700 per year.
I found numerous policies from other underwriters that were either only slightly more expensive, presented a different mix of coverages, or both. Overall, I was pleased to find enough choice, enough affordability and enough flexibility to finally take on proper insurance for my small business … and it has motivated me to tell others about it, in hopes that my fellow artists, project studio owners and technicians can protect those things most valuable to us … well, at least those valuable things that do not have a heartbeat.
If you’re interested in learning more, we encourage you to reach out to insurance professionals, like the folks at Music Pro Insurance, to learn more, inquire about a quote, or gather information to suit your needs.
Rob Tavaglione has owned and operated Catalyst Recording in Charlotte NC since 1992. For more info, visit www.catalystrecording.com.