Author Topic: Insurance for Musical Instruments  (Read 3111 times)

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Insurance for Musical Instruments
« on: Jan 02, 2018, 05:31 pm »
So I'm in pre-pro for my last university production and I've been poised with a new question by several actors: Will the university insure my musical instruments?

I was wondering if anyone out there has any perspective on the question. I'm especially interested on hearing any specific Equity rules regarding it.

More backstory for anyone interested...
Typically for our musicals my university will hire professional or pre-professional musicians to play in the pit. However for our next play (not musical), The Two Gentlemen of Verona, we are asking actors to double as musicians for some additional aspects to the show. Actors have gotten talking and now are practically requiring the university to insure the instruments through the rehearsal and performance process. They have even gone out to ask for additional compensation for "wear and tear." Actors don't get paid at our university, they are enrolled for up to three credits per production. So it just proves to be a unique situation. Thoughts?


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Re: Insurance for Musical Instruments
« Reply #1 on: Jan 03, 2018, 08:10 am »
I find it odd that the University is not providing instruments (either instruments they own or rent) to use in the production.  We don't ask performers to wear their own clothes or bring furniture from their living room, so to me it's unusual that the performers would be asked or expected to provide instruments in the first place.  If, for whatever reason, the University decides it would prefer the actors to furnish their own instruments (i.e. show props) it's reasonable to expect that the actors should be paid a fair market rate for use of the asset during the run of the production.  It's also reasonable to state that the University is liable for any damage to the rented prop while in its custody and be expected to make the owner whole in the event damage does occur.
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Re: Insurance for Musical Instruments
« Reply #2 on: Jan 13, 2018, 06:38 pm »
My instincts say that instrument insurance is overkill for a university production. It is likely that the cost of the insurance plus the administrative costs to set it up are too high to make it worth it for a short show run. However, I think it is not unreasonable for the students to get a written contract from the university saying that if any damage occurs during a rehearsal or performance the university will be responsible for the repair/replacement costs. In addition, spare guitar/ukulele/[insert your show's instrument here] strings should be purchased by the production and kept on hand during rehearsals and performances for when a string inevitably breaks. That is really the most likely thing that will come up on the standard wear and tear front, so as long as those are available then I think wear and tear compensation is unnecessary.

KMC does bring up the good point of who should provide the instruments. I have worked on several professional non-equity shows where the actors have provided their own instruments. I would argue that it's different from standard props or costumes in that using a different instrument than someone is used to can affect their performance, so many people prefer to use their own. I don't believe any of the actors I've worked with who brought in their own instruments have asked for a rental fee; they all simply offered to bring their own in. However, if your university is requiring your actors to use their own, I think it would be reasonable to offer some compensation. And in either case if the actor is expected to leave their instrument in the theater for the full duration of the run (rather than bringing it home every night if they choose) a rental fee would be even more necessary.

It may be worth approaching your school's music department to see if instruments can be borrowed for the run of the show. These would already be covered by school insurance, and the music department may even provide extra strings, etc. along with them.


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Re: Insurance for Musical Instruments
« Reply #3 on: Jan 15, 2018, 11:33 am »
I work with a professional composer/music director/performer who always brings his own instruments. He played those exact instruments for years, and knows which one(s) will work best for what he wants to accomplish, the space he'll be performing in, and will play nice with our sound equipment. While he has occasionally asked us to have a back-up guitar on site, just in case, I think he'd be insulted if we asked him to play something other than his own.

I believe he carries his own insurance for his instruments, since they're part of his livelihood (and as someone who used to play an expensive instrument, I'd recommend that for all musicians!) which still covers them in all performance venues.

We do provide plenty of his preferred type of strings (one set per week of performance, but we do 13 shows a week), batteries for anything he needs them for, sound cables, DI boxes, contact cleaning supplies, etc.

Thinking back on all the shows I've done where performers play an instrument, the only instruments my theater has ever provided are a keyboard, and small hand percussion, whizz whistles, kazoos, etc. (though there was one performer who preferred his personal kazoo!)
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Re: Insurance for Musical Instruments
« Reply #4 on: Jan 18, 2018, 09:19 pm »
There is a precedent within several Actors Equity contracts for insurance coverage and rental fees paid for use of an actor's personal property in a show. The most detailed schedule for these payments that I have personally worked with is an appendix to the LORT contract, and covers mostly costume and wig-related items. That said, a local or nearby chapter of the American Federation of Musicians may be able to provide guidance that takes into account the unique risks, wear and tear, and maintenance needs of musical instruments. I would be surprised if AFM is unable to help your fellow students come up with a suitable agreement.

And the philosophical approach the school seems to have adopted just... bothers me. Would the school ask a carpenter to use personal tools, without any evidence of insurance? I think not. The instruments should be treated with the same care. If nothing else, the school should wish to minimize the risk of exposure to future legal action or complaints. Oy.