Can I borrow your gear?

It’s something I’ve heard often over the years, “Can I borrow your gear?”.

Those that work normal hours may hear things akin to this simple phrase, “can I borrow your stapler”, “can I borrow your computer”. These can be a thorn in the side for a few, but more often than not it’s nothing to fuss about as the damage is likely none and you will usually know the person using your property. But what if a stranger asked you in a parking lot, “can I borrow your car?”. Would you say yes? Even if they promised they would treat it like their own and have it back to you in 30 minutes? Likely you may scoff or run away before the situation becomes hostile.

This is the feeling most musicians get when asked if they can lend their musical equipment out to musicians they’ve never met or haven’t seen perform before.

Ever seen that guitarist jumping around on stage, accidentally landing on the frontman or bashing the neck of the guitar into the cymbal stands? Or the drummer that smashes everything so hard you’re sure the skins have one use left and the cymbals will perish in no time? These are the potential types of people that could want to borrow musical equipment. I know because I’ve leant my drum kit to several people over the years and have lived to regret it on more than one occasion.

A 7 foot tall, softly spoken drummer once politely asked to use my kit at a Sydney venue I was headlining. His technique was so poor and so aggressive that each drum skin (including the bass drum) was left with giant pits in them that left it so out of tune they had to be replaced.

Others have man-handled stands and hi-hat clutches to the point of breaking. Everything costs to replace and no one wants to pay for what they broke because they were borrowing the gear and assume it was likely to break the next time the owner turned that screw.

If a musician respects the instruments they have because, not only do they sound great, but because the price tag was high, they generally won’t want to lend it out to strangers. Repairing or replacing instruments is costly. When it comes to cymbals, your cymbal may develop a crack after someone has smashed it, but that crack may not surface for a month after. What culpability for the player that is long gone is there on replacing that cymbal?

The simplest thing to do, is to say no to other musicians you don’t know. But for some reason the people that ask always look at you like you just assaulted their mother. Try to understand that when musicians say “no” to you using their gear, it’s not personal, it’s just insurance on a large investment. And most importantly, GET YOUR OWN GEAR!