Interview

Band Theft Auto: Artists Are Being Robbed On The Road

by AJ Sugar

The phone rings at 7 AM, and you discover that your livelihood and everything you’ve worked for over the years is gone in an instant. For bands and artists, a growing trend of gear and equipment theft is becoming all too common and these phone calls not an uncommon occurrence.

It’s a terrifying situation that no one wants to endure, and for Minneapolis band Cold Kingdom, it has become an unfortunate reality that is reoccurring for local and touring musicians. Contrary to the popular image of the lavish and rich rockstar, musicians generally make between $.006 by way of streaming a song online, and $5-$10 per head at a live show. It’s not exactly cocaine and hooker money, especially when all of that cash is generally poured back into the fuel tank of a petrol-hungry van. It can be devastating at this level; everything is paid for out-of-pocket, built up and expanded over the years to become a huge expense. The police report for this incident in particular tops $33,000, which is not out of the ordinary for any band.

Sadly, equipment thefts like these are becoming all too frequent. Another Minneapolis band, Pinwheel, has also been a recent burglary victim, while nationwide it seems is growing to be a sort of epidemic. St. Louis recently has been a hotbed for thefts as well. Locals, The Few, although untouched by the thefts, are seeing losses in other ways: “It’s really very sad to see Saint Louis left off the tour schedule for many touring artists, big or small, all because some thieves want a quick paycheck. City officials and venue owners have met a couple [of] times since this all began becoming endemic to discuss the investigation of the break-ins and how to better protect the artists. All of which seem to not really affect the amount of these [incidents] that are happening because it is not regular, it has no pattern.”

Image from http://www.pinwheelband.com/

Image from http://www.pinwheelband.com/

Cold Kingdom had to cancel two shows after the theft, and even online merch sales had to be put on hold. Showing the camaraderie of the music scene, the band has since been playing out again, thanks to support from fellow bands loaning and sharing gear with them in an effort to keep the momentum going. Fans, friends and family have also been incredibly supportive: “We’ve been offered gear, money, transportation, etc. It’s been really humbling and really surreal all at the same time. It has definitely made us feel like we’re not alone in this venture. People are sympathetic but also have expressed a deep anger and frustration that this keeps happening to bands all over. We’re not the first, and unfortunately, we won’t be the last, [but] seeing people pull together to back us is awe inspiring.” (You can help as well at their GoFundMe page here.)

The unfortunate reality they mention is that they won’t be the last band to suffer in a situation like this. The boys from The Few offered tips to local and touring bands to protect themselves as much as possible, stating: “When you are playing a show with touring bands, tell them straight away to bring all of their vehicle’s contents into the venue with them. Especially backpacks with computers, obviously instruments, GPS’s etc. These all make an already attractive van more attractive to thieves. Help the bands cover their windows and park their vehicles as near to the entrance(s) of venues as possible.” They also told me that many venues are doing their part by having security keep a closer eye on artist vehicles.

Even fans can do their part to help curb this trend. Leaving or going out to smoke and see something suspicious? No harm in telling someone, even if it may be a false alarm, it will be appreciated to avoid the headache and heartache so many artists are enduring. See a band posting about a theft? Share the post to help raise awareness for other acts and it will help put more eyes out there to locate stolen gear.

I asked Cold Kingdom if they were angry at the thieves, and of course that was an initial reaction. Guitarist Zac Boyd said they moved past it however, and are doing their best to stay positive: “[I feel sorry] that this was their only means to an end. I think we’re all past the point of anger. It takes a lot more work to be dishonest than it does to be honest these days.”

It will take a group movement to really make a difference, but that is what the music scene is about: bringing people together. And that is the light in any of these situations, seeing people helping people. I’ll give the band Cold Kingdom the last word below, but I personally want to thank anyone that has helped an artist in need as well. We’re all in this world together, so let’s make it as awesome and positive as we can. Cheers.

“Bands bust their asses. We make little to no money, but pump a ton of cash back into doing this. Why? Because, we love it. We love to entertain. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to help us recoup this loss. Supporting a band outside of going to a show here and there shows a lot of love. We hope that through our shows and music, we can continue to give that love right back. Thank you for taking the time to care. We appreciate it more than you will ever know.”Cold Kingdom

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