Interview by Rebecca Groom
In our latest Industry Voices series, we talked with Molly Nagel-Driessen, Director of Marketing over at GearTrack. GearTrack is an online musical instrument registry, which can provide an excellent organizational tool for musicians and industry professionals alike. In addition to an organizational tear, GearTrack's growing online community is very resourceful if you need to report your stolen gear. With a few success stories already under their belt, this is worth a read.
We talked to Molly about instrument theft and tips on preventing it, including using GearTrack as a preventative measure. We also talked about social media, and the challenges of starting a music-based company.
1. To start, please state your name and position with GearTrack, and give us a little background about your company.
I'm Molly Nagel-Driessen, Director of Marketing. GearTrack was started 2 years ago by my sister-in-law, Bridget Driessen. We're a small, family-run business.
2. The idea behind GearTrack makes sense for any musician, touring or otherwise. Was the motivation to start the company because of a stolen instrument, or was it more of a proactive approach?
GearTrack was started in response to the theft of my father-in-law's banjo at a bluegrass festival. The whole story is here on our blog, but suffice it to say that the recovery of the instrument, from the search to the courtroom, made it clear that a better system could exist.
3. Your sister-in-law Bridget and you are the “women behind the curtain” as it is stated on your website. You were both heavily involved in the music industry before this. Did working in the industry influence you in the creation and running of the site?
Definitely. The Driessens are a very musical family, and while neither Bridget or I play professionally, we both have had a close relationship with musicians and the bonds created with instruments for quite some time. For me personally to work for something that is purely in a musician's interest is such a huge relief.
4. What are some of the difficulties you both faced while starting a music-based company?
Our biggest challenge has probably been just motivating musicians to go beyond support for the idea and actually spend the 5 minutes to register their gear before theft occurs. Even though it's free and easy - it can be difficult to relate how important it is to have cataloged these ownership details (and how critical it is to recovery) to a group that is so busy and invariably spread thin. Of course, once someone has a theft happen to them, there's no hesitation!
5. Besides the obvious, musicians, are there any other groups that benefit from your services?
We think our service is a great fit for tour managers or educators. They can keep an easily downloadable, shareable inventory of gear to help with packing, border crossings, insurance, organization and more.
We also think that luthiers stand to benefit from the creation of provenance for their work - in 10 or 15 years one instrument's various owners, custom work, repairs, and more could be documented and tracked.
6. What in your opinion are some of the best features on your site?
I think the price (Free! for up to 5 pieces of gear) - is one of our most attractive features.
I also think the ability to thoroughly spec out a specific piece of gear - from tuning pegs to end pins - is fantastic.
Last, I love the ability to share stolen instrument alerts to our WatchDog community. If the listing already exists with us, it's just the flip of a switch. If not, uploading a stolen instrument only takes 5 minutes. Word is spread to our community, and the user also can easily share the listing with their network as well.
7. Do you feel as if gear theft is more prevalent these days, or are we just hearing more about it because of our access to social media?
I believe instruments have always been a big theft item. They are usually portable and easily resold, and the story is pretty common in musician circles. The stories are also great interest pieces for news outlets - so we do see the coverage increasing and spreading through social media, for sure.
One of the interesting things is that we will see articles on recovered gear twenty years after the fact - many of the stolen listings on our site are from the past, and we like to think that there is still hope for everyone!
8. Obviously privacy is a concern for everyone in our age of constant communication. Does the website have any specific privacy features for its users?
The security and anonymity of our users is our first concern. Our site is encrypted and we don't store a user's address or personal information at all. While our entire database is searchable, an owner's user name is never associated with an instrument or with other pieces in their collection.
We don't want people to know which gear is yours and what other gear you may have. Our "contact owner" feature allows users to reach each other without ever showing your personal information or address.
9. Theft isn’t fun, especially when it comes to something as expensive as your gear. Have you had any success stories with the return of instruments?
We had 2 mandolins returned early this year thanks to the site. That story is here, but we were so excited to have proof of concept so early in our mission! We're excited for our next recovery and the more instruments we have registered the better the site will work.
10. Finally, any tips, in addition to registering on the site, for musicians trying to prevent theft?
My number one tip would be not to leave gear in your car, ever, nomatterwhat. It's the number one theft story we see - car broken into, van stolen with gear inside, trailer unhitched and driven away.
Secondly, I think the number 2 place that gear is vulnerable is at the gig - keep an eye on your gear at load-in, between soundcheck and the gig, and at load-out.
Lastly, make sure you've cataloged your serial numbers, and if you don't have serials take great photos of distinguishing marks, custom alterations, etc. It will be the difference between recovery and the long goodbye.
Check out GearTrack at their website, and sign up to register your instruments today!