Sonic Youth is a band that has had some pretty bad luck over the years when it comes to having their musical equipment stolen. While touring in 1999, the band had their entire van of musical equipment stolen. With the help of fans, they were able to recover only a couple of guitars.
Just recently in December of 2012, Thurston Moore had his beloved 1960 Fender Jazzmaster guitar stolen from his hotel room in Philadelphia. Sadly, Sonic Youth is only a fraction of the bands that deal with stolen gear. I, too, am a victim of theft. Last year I had my left-handed Fender Stratocaster stolen out of my car while loading up after a gig. This guitar was a gift from my mother on my seventeenth birthday and completely irreplaceable.
Whether you are a professional musician or play in a local band, having your gear taken from you down-right stinks. And whether it was from a hotel room or a vehicle, a venue or practice space, any musician who has had his or her gear stolen suffers from feelings of violation and anger.
Is there any way that we fellow musicians can help fight against thieves, and possibly even be reunited with your stolen gear? Molly Nagel-Driessen and Bridget Driessen are helping to do just that with their recent launch of GearTrack!
GearTrack is the fresh and innovative way of keeping track of musical gear in the 21st century. It is an online musical instrument registry start-up by these two sister-in-laws on a mission to help musicians retrieve stolen gear. Molly and Bridget both have extensive backgrounds in music and a strong passion to deter thieves that think they can get away with stealing musical equipment that is not rightfully theirs.
Probably one of the best things about GearTrack is that it is FREE to register. It is free for up to five instruments and always free to list stolen instruments. There is a $25 Pro Upgrade that allows users to list unlimited items and list items for sale on the site. Once you fill out your basic information, you can start cataloging gear.
If ever you run into the unfortunate situation of having a musical instrument stolen, simply switch the tab to stolen and the call is out. GearTrack will automatically notify their WatchDog community of over 5,000 Facebook and Twitter followers as well as a newsletter inclusion to their 600 current users—and this number is steadily increasing.
It is recommended that you enter as much information as you possibly can about the instrument—serial numbers are essential, but photos, location, police case number, etc. are also very helpful. The number one goal for GearTrack is to become the destination site for pawn brokers, second hand dealers, used instrument buyers and collectors to do a quick check of a serial number before trading an instrument to make sure that it is not flagged in the system.
It was through a search of the GearTrack system that the company had their first successful recovery. In March of 2013, with the help of GearTrack, Rocky Blakewood had his valued mandolins returned to him after they were stolen. The upshot is that someone who had purchased the instrument was inquiring on a forum about it and someone thought to search GearTrack and found that a user had reported it stolen. Blakewood and his mandolins were quickly reunited. We just love a happy ending, do we not?
Besides being a stolen notification system and database for stolen gear, GearTrack has several features built in that make it useful to users before gear is stolen. For one, it helps musicians to get organized. GearTrack guides you through the collection of all the important facts and identifiable specifications about your instrument.
They show you all the things you should record to expedite recovery if theft occurs such as serial numbers and photos which are critical when filing reports with police or insurance. Second, all the information about your instrument is there when you need it if you are ever in a situation in which you are asked to prove instrument ownership. Third, GearTrack will allow you to export your gear library as a spreadsheet if you happen to be in need of sharing this information. This information is useful to have on-hand for insurance companies or tour managers if your gear is stolen.
Lastly, should the unthinkable ever happen and your gear is stolen, all you have to do is switch your gear that has been registered with GearTrack to “stolen” status. GearTrack will post alerts to everyone and their brother in the world of the internet. One click is all it takes.
GearTrack is also very empathetic when it comes to privacy. It is understandable that you might want to keep a purchased value or an appraisal amount private. That is why they have included the option to keep that information visible to only you, the owner. Simply toggle the checkbox next to each field you want to keep private. If it is unchecked then it means it is private. Any documents that you upload to your item listing also include the option to stay private. That way you can keep this information all in one place, but you do not have to display personal data to the world.
The database is organized by items, not its users. Any user, whether they are registered or not, can search or peruse listings on the GearTrack site. The instruments are never linked to the user or to other items in the users’ collections. Therefore, once you are registered you never have to worry about anyone knowing how much gear you have because you are the only one able to see your gear library.
When uploading pictures, GearTrack will also remove the location data this is stored in the photo’s files so that someone cannot reverse search for where you took that picture.
GearTrack has also kept the ability for any registered user to send the owner of an item a message not just to swap stories or offer money for a really rare or cool item. They have done it so that the barrier to recovery of stolen instruments is as small as possible. When you get a message from another user, it is filtered through their in-house messaging system. No one can see your e-mail address, and the information you disclose to another user is up to you. The message threads do currently reveal your user name, but there is no access to profile information, e-mail addresses, gear libraries or anything like that.
In addition to these organizational features, GearTrack also offers a place for instrument owners to geek out about other people’s gear, as well as resources like the blog and the stolen instrument tips that the folks at GearTrack hope are useful to the community. Also, the team at GearTrack is very receptive about the thoughts and concerns of those interested in registering. Just let them know!