A Serious Warning About Insuring Your Home Studio

The most important advice I ever got about personal recording studio insurance.

As we were working at the studio on some updates to the recording equipment insurance policy, I was reminded of some great information I was given years ago, that I want to share with you.

my first studio

My first Recording Studio

Like most of us, my first studio was in my bedroom. It was a tiny set up and it was the most exciting thing in the world to me.  Thanks to growing up the son of a man that valued insurance, I always had a renter’s insurance policy in case my gear got stolen or destroyed.  Like most of us, my collection of gear started to grow and so did my professional aspirations.  Eventually I started to make a few bucks using my equipment. I was now a professional!!!

One day, years later, I was out on tour working for a fairly well known band and we started having a discussion about how we deal with being on the road making sure everything is OK at home.  I said that I did not own much of value except my music and audio equipment, but I did not worry too much because I was well insured.  Knowing I was still a bit of a professional newbie, one of the guys in the band asked me a question that shook me to my core: “Are you sure?

You see, this veteran musician guessed that I had made a typical mistake many music professionals make. HE WAS RIGHT.

I, like many musicians, had a renter’s insurance policy for my home and figured that all the gear I kept at home was covered. After doing some research, I found I was completely wrong.  As a professional musician and recording engineer, all of my equipment is considered professional business equipment and many (as in probably most) renters and even home owner’s insurance policies have exclusions for professional equipment.  Should your equipment ever get stolen or destroyed, there is a good chance that the insurance company will not reimburse you for the loss, even if you have a special amendment to your policy for musical instruments.  Keep in mind that insurance companies make money by taking in more money than they pay out, so it is in their best interest to find ways not to pay you. If you have ever made ANY money with your gear, there is a good chance they have a legal right not to cover your loss. Myself, and many of my professional friends, keep all of our recording gear and musical instruments on a separate policy dedicated to music professionals. While I am not the one to give advice about specific policies, I will say that it is worth looking into dedicated policies, and if you are going to include your recording gear and instruments on a renters or home owners policy, make sure that you specifically ask if your stuff is covered if you use it professionally.  I would strongly recommend that you get the insurance agent to answer that question in writing.

My current recording studio

My current recording studio

Speaking of insurance, if your studio is anywhere that could get hit with floods, tornadoes, earthquakes… you might want to be sure your insurance covers those things. I have heard some heart breaking stories of people losing all their gear in a natural disaster and not having their stuff covered, because the policy had exclusions for the specific disaster that struck their home.

It is also strongly recommended that you keep detailed documentation of all your gear. Take photographs of it and keep a spread sheet with model numbers, serial numbers and declared value. MAKE SURE TO KEEP ALL THIS INFO SOMEWHERE OTHER THEN YOUR STUDIO!! store it at some one else’s house and keep it in the cloud. If a fire wipes out your studio, you do not want it wiping out all your documentation of the gear you lost.

I graduated from a home studio years ago, and these days almost all of my equipment is in my commercial facility. Thankfully, I have never had to make a claim, and I really hate cutting that big insurance check every year, but the peace of mind that comes from knowing I have a safety net should disaster strike is well worth the expense.

Disclaimer: I am a studio owner and not an insurance expert. Consult an insurance professional before making any important decisions about your insurance needs.

Shure-RCMRonan Chris Murphy is the founder of Recording Boot Camp. His diverse discography ranges from Youtube sensation Tay Zonday to over a dozen albums with King Crimson. Known as the man behind the boards for many virtuosos including Terry Bozzio, Steve Morse, Chucho Valdes, Tony Levin, Steve Stevens, Jamie Walters, Ulver, and Nels Cline.

  1. Great point Ronan!

    I would add also that a person should NOT rely on their homeowners policy either. Yes ’some’ equipment is covered but, for instance, in my case its about $1,500 for stereo and electronics – obviously not enough. I needed to have a special insurance coverage for the musical equipment. It was actually less expensive to go with a Music Insurance company and a whole new policy rather than add a rider/special clause to my existing HO policy.

    Also check with music organizations of which you are a member…as often they are partnered with Music Insurance companies and offer discounts.

    All the best,
    Joey Daddario

  2. Kyle Wittlin says:

    Also remember to UPDATE your policy EVERY time you get a new piece of gear or software, etc!

  3. Mike Kosacek says:

    another question to ask your insurance provider, if you are a gigging musician or do remote recordings, is what happens when you take your gear out of the house or studio?

  4. Taylor Gauge says:

    Great topic Ronan!

    I’ve been collecting recording equipment as well as instruments for over 20 years so being completely uninsured would leave me with the possibility of losing everything I’ve saved for my whole life.

    It is best to keep all of the receipts that you have for purchases (I write the serial numbers right on the receipts also) along with photographs, and a spread sheet with serial numbers, quantities, and values, placed in a fire/water proof safe (I also have this on my Google Drive in the Cloud). This of course is only important if you have an insurance policy that is going to cover the loss at all. When I purchased my first home my home owners insurance covered $1500 for musical instruments. That didn’t even cover one of my guitars! So, make sure that you get a separate policy or an amendment to the policy you have.

  5. R Jerry says:

    Ronan, you have given very good advice. The exclusion in the homeowners or renters form is called a “business pursuits” exclusion. A hobby is not a business pursuit — but a full-time job is. Making a few bucks for an occasional gig will, almost always, not be considered (at least by a court — but if have to go there, you’re already in a train wreck) a business pursuit. For example, a child making a few bucks babysitting is not in a business pursuit (which is important — because the potential exposure for negligence by a child of an insured homeowner/renter is huge, even if unlikely), so making money is not the sole criterion for whether you’re covered or not. But basically you want to stay out of the gray areas where the boundary is fuzzy. Hurricane and earthquake deductibles (or exclusions) in, say, Florida and California, and elsewhere, can be huge and highly relevant, too. An endorsement for computer equipment can probably help, or a personal property floater. But the key, as you most appropriately suggest, is to talk to your agent or an experienced broker (i.e., so-called “independent agent”). For these kinds of things, the latter may be better, because he/she can talk to you about different companies’ products, whereas the one-company agent will be locked into selling whatever that company markets. Although a lot of forms are standard, there are differences, and especially in what a company is willing to underwrite.

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