Friday, January 30, 2009


The type of person who chooses to embark on a career in the arts is, almost by definition, a risk-taker. Maybe not reckless, but certainly willing to take a chance on a less certain path in life. We also tend to get by on a pretty tight budget. So it's no surprise that lots of musicians don't carry even basic insurance coverage.

Your number one insurance priority should be health insurance. I once went for four years without any health insurance. I don't recommend that anyone else do that, but it was an especially lean period for me, and luckily, I didn't get sick. Eventually, I wised up and got myself a high-deductible individual policy, designed to be paired with a Health Savings Account (HSA). If you are basically healthy and have an adequate emergency fund set aside to cover some health costs, a high-deductible policy can keep your health insurance premiums surprisingly affordable. HSA accounts are a recent development in the U.S. They are like IRA accounts in terms of tax advantages, but you can take out money without penalty to cover your basic health care expenses each year. Those of you who live in civilized countries with nationalized health care can disregard the above discussion!

Also highly recommended to musicians is equipment insurance. You might think that your gear is covered by your homeowners or renters policy, but if you use the equipment professionally, or it is stolen or damaged on a gig away from home, you might be left high and dry. You usually need a separate policy or rider for your professional equipment, and it's typically pretty affordable. Obviously, all jurisdictions require you to carry auto insurance, and you'd be crazy to drive without it. But again, as with all other types of insurance, you should consider accepting higher deductibles or lower levels of coverage to lower your premium if you have an emergency account.

There are an almost infinite variety of insurance policies that you may not need. If you don't have a family to support, you should probably think twice about carrying life insurance. You might not even need renters insurance if you live a typical transient musician lifestyle and don't have a lot of valuable possessions. I usually don't opt for extended warranty coverage offered at consumer electronics stores or car dealers. Sometimes these deals just offer redundant coverage for defects already covered under the manufacturer's warranty, and often the seemingly small monthly premiums add up to excessive sums over time. Then again, if you're a klutz, or prone to losing your cell phones, maybe it's a good deal!

You might be getting the idea that I'm not enthusiastic about carrying lots of comprehensive, gold-plated insurance policies. You'd be right. In areas of life where you are vulnerable and really can't afford a loss, adequate insurance is essential, but don't try to insure 100% of the risk out of your life. It would probably take 100% of your money to do that!

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