Lately, I have seen more and more bands getting their equipment stolen while they are on tour. I have never been a victim of this predicament (knock on wood), but I have had several close friends, and not just Arizona bands, suffer at the hands of criminals. Every time I hear about it, my heart breaks a little more knowing someone was that desperate and “the good guys” are suffering the consequences. Even on my tours last year, we had a close encounter with thieves in New York City, and had it not been for someone sleeping in our van, we might have lost all of our gear. Now obviously, you can't have someone sleep in your van every night, especially when it’s too hot or too cold. So then what do you do? Here is a list of 10 ways for bands to prevent getting their gear stolen while on tour:
10. Do Not Haul A Trailer
Find a vehicle with large amounts of storage, like a shuttle bus or a larger van that fits you and your mates comfortably. You can always find great deals at an auto auction or through rental/shuttle companies that just updated their fleets. Those vehicles are always well maintained, kept clean, and usually “road-ready.” And you could even go so far as to build out a living space, a gear space, and really own your travel space — one that is secure on all fronts, and one that allows you comfort, affordability, peace of mind, and safety for you and your equipment.
9. Bring Your Gear In At Night
I know this seems like a tedious chore, but it's definitely less tedious than getting all your gear jacked. In my opinion, this is a no-brainer, especially if you are staying in parts of towns with high break-in rates. You just have to make sure where you are staying has enough space for you to bring in all that gear. Just like “The Bag Lady” Erykah Badu said, “Pack light!” Less is more while on tour, always.
8. Use Couchsurfing
My current touring project uses it all the time, and we always end up in safe, comfy neighborhoods with secure places for us, and our equipment, to sleep safely. Do your crime-rate research on the cities you are touring through; it can definitely help eliminate some problems right off the bat.
7. Try To Keep A Really Low Profile On The Road
Don't be flashy and act like you're in a touring rock band everywhere you go. Save that for the shows. Convince people you are some church group or some group they won't really mess with (hopefully), a group that doesn't obviously have a ton of awesome music gear ripe for stealing. Thieves are always watching, and you never know where they're hiding and if they are following you. Burglaries take place every 15 seconds in the U.S., so be smart.
6. Buy Cheaper Gear For The Road
I know cheaper gear doesn't sound as good, but for the level most DIY touring bands are at, you don't really need to bring that $10,000 guitar Daddy bought you for your 21st birthday on tour. Places most DIY bands are playing are rooms of 100 capacity or less, which means you don't need all that expensive gear to blow people's minds; you really only need that vibe. And if you open your mind and sound up to some new equipment before you hit the road, you might actually get those tones you want with just a hair lower-quality gear. Sure, the sound might not be industry-approved, but it's gear that is potentially much more replaceable than that $10,000 guitar.
5. Make It Hard To See What's Inside
Cover your gear with dark sheets and top it off with some decoy items at night if it must live in the van (or the trailer), so that robbers will have to think twice before deciding whether to break and enter. Also, really dark tint or window blinds/shades are also a great investment when it comes to theft deterrent.
4. Back Your Trailer Up To the Wall Nice and Tight (If There Is A Place To Do It)
I think this is pretty self-explanatory. If you have to bring a trailer, use proper trailer etiquette. If you back your trailer up to a wall, it becomes harder for people to remove it or open it to get inside to the good stuff. With that being said, I can't think of too many times in my 10 years of touring that we've been able to find parking spaces in cities that allow trailers where we can back it up to the wall. Even in cities like New York City and San Francisco (high-crime-rate cities), most secure lots will not allow you in their little setups with a trailer attached. It’s just too tight of a space and too hard to maneuver. So again, I really support touring sans trailer.
3. Always Find Secure Parking At Your Venues
Maybe once the vehicle is parked, especially if it's on the street, try not to go back and forth a ton so people do not know this is the "band's van." Grab what you need and try your best to stay out of it. Of course, there are always going to be things left in the van, but the less commotion and advertising you can do about being a touring band in a van, the better. Even with people at the shows, you never know who is paying attention to your next move. I'm not saying to assume everyone you meet intends to jack your stuff, but there could always be just one, and that one is enough to wreck everything. Those kinds of thieves are professionals, and do it so quickly no one ever sees it happen.
2. Get Monster Locks and Tracking Devices For Your Trailer
Buy the biggest, most bad-ass locks and bars you can find and defend your turf. Make a tricky way into the door with some extra steel, making it extra difficult for someone to get into the trailer. If they get that far, hide a tracking device in your trailer so you know exactly where to send the cops to retrieve it. It’s a little pricey, but keeping your stuff safe and secure allows for everyone to sleep at night knowing “we did the best we could to make our gear and trailer as secure as possible.”
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1. Decorate Your Vehicle With Some Dumb Wrap
I have never tried this, but I really feel this could prove to be a worthwhile ploy to deter robberies. Find a company to pay for it. Maybe even find a newspaper or something, so it seems like you are moving items that criminals would not waste their time on, since everyone knows print is dead. Seriously though, anything to increase your levels of incognito are good for any traveling clan.