A few years ago I attended a Dennis Chambers clinic that left me incredibly inspired. Not only did Dennis solo for an hour straight, I had the opportunity to chat with him afterwards, a huge honor indeed. Needless to say it was an amazing night to be a drummer. I had a gig that night so I had packed my drums in the trunk of my car, lest they be visible to some undesirable who may try to car jack them.
After I left the clinic to go to the gig, I rounded the corner walking up the street toward my parked car, I could see that my trunk was open. Sheer terror had me in its grip as my legs froze in place. There was no denying the horrific reality. There bathed beneath the street lights, reminiscent of some sick and twisted stage play. My car (minus the drums) looked like the scene of a grisly crime—windows forced open and pried out of their track, a roadside emergency blanket lay half in and half out of the trunk like some lifeless corpse.
Many drummers will be able to relate to this tragic tale of woe. All too often we take for granted that our vehicle is actually a mobile Fort Knox, impervious to crimes of opportunity. The couple minutes we leave the drums unattended in their cases on stage in the club, or grab our vehicle to load out of a gig, could be the opportunity a thief is looking for to grab your gear.
Theft of gear is something you never think about; until it happens to you. While you may be blissfully unaware of the seedy underbelly of black market music gear, the reality is that it happens more frequently than one would like to think. Here are a few pointers to keep your drums from becoming the next payday for the thieves of our world.
Insurance: While it does assure that you can recoup the financial cost of the stolen item(s), it cannot replace any attached sentiment. However, do remember that when your gear is insured you must register any serial numbers with the insurance company. This can be all the proof you need when you call around to secondhand shops and let them know the gear is yours. Armed with serial numbers and a description, many pawn shops will become your eyes and ears on the street if your gear goes missing.
Diligence: Never leave your gear in a vehicle. Not ever, not for a second, not even just to run into the drum shop on the way to the gig. NEVER! Thieves are thieves for a reason; they are really good at it and when you leave all your gear in one place you are doing them a huge favor. A really good thief can go Nicolas Cage on you—gone in sixty seconds!
Anonymity: If you are on tour, never have your band logo on the side of your van or trailer. This is an advertisement for thieves, you may as well call the band “Expensive Music Gear Inside.”
Stay Aware: If your band is loading out at night, make sure someone is always with the band vehicle and another near the stage. If you load your drums into the van wait until one of your bandmates comes out before you go back into the club for another load. Likewise, don’t take a load out if the gear onstage is going to be left alone. Don’t fool yourself into thinking the neighborhood you are in is “safe”. My gear was pinched in a very well lit and populated area of the city; ironically, only two blocks from a police station.
Speak Up: God forbid your gear grows legs, but should it happen, call the police (the ones with guns, not Stewart Copeland’s buddies) and file a report ASAP! This is uber important. You may not get the gear back right away, but chances are if law enforcement has serial numbers, detailed description, etc., it makes their job easier.
Security: Let’s be honest, if someone wants to steal your gear, come hell or high water they will figure out a way to do it. However, the tighter the security, the less likely they will want to expend the energy. If your gear is packed away in a van or trailer and you absolutely must leave it overnight (i.e. in a hotel parking lot) here are some ideas to keep a potential perp at bay:
- Invest in an alarm system for your vehicle.
- If you are on tour, ask the hotel if they have underground secure parking and use it diligently. Bring your drums into the hotel room; something I do often. For the little bit of physical labor (and weird looks from the hotel staff) I sleep better at night. Park near the front door of the hotel in a well lit area.
- Back your van or trailer against a wall when the gear is inside and must be unattended.
- Invest in a lock for your trailer hitch. You would not believe how many bands have lost their entire trailer to a savvy thief with a trailer hitch!
Sean Mitchell is a drummer/artist, songwriter and the creator of Drum Geek.