Your Money: Woke up this morning with them musical insurance blues

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Are insurers staid and boring, or are they simply out of harmony with musicians?

Whatever the answer, the fact is that musicians - be they budding rock stars, buskers, professionals or those who play an instrument as a hobby - can get a raw deal when they take out an insurance policy.

Thanks to the image of musicians as guitar-smashing wild men - and the fact that they often have to hump expensive equipment to and from pubs late at night - they tend to be offered expensive cover, sometimes with gaping exclusion clauses.

The problem is not so much with specialist providers of cover, who know musicians better, but with many well-known insurers.

Obtaining cover via an extension to a standard household contents policy can cost twice as much as a special policy for a particular instrument.

Watch out for "no cover after dark" or "no cover abroad" exclusions. They are less common in modern policies, but can still figure in the small print. If you earn money from your music, you might actually invalidate the policy.

The answer, for some brokers, is specialist musical instrument insurance, providing a cheaper and more comprehensive option.

The Musicians Union offers professional insurance advice as a benefit of membership. Minet, an insurance broker that works with the MU, claims to be able to negotiate special rates on all kinds of musical instrument.

Richard Jenner, Minet's divisional director, says: "Quite simply, the advice is: do not use the home contents policy." Many contents policies will have inadequate cover for taking your instrument out of the house - whether to go busking, to a lesson or to a gig.

By joining the MU, musicians can get cover for as little as pounds 1 a week. Costs rise according to earnings from music in the preceding year.

The MU takes responsibility for the first pounds 500 of a claim in any one year. Costs mount by pounds 1.50 a year for each additional pounds 100 of cover provided.

The minimum annual premium of pounds 25 will cover the greater part of pounds 2,000- worth of musical hardware, enough for an average instrument and associated amplification.

A working band with several guitars, keyboards, drum kit and associated gismos worth pounds 10,000 would still be able to cover a year's activity for about pounds 150 - a night's fee for many bands.

Classical instrument rates can be half that amount for the equivalent replacement value. Equipment such as computers used to store musical sequences and generate background rhythms can be covered under the musical instrument banner.

Nor is specialist insurance only for the professionals. Schoolchildren and teachers regularly take valuable instruments to lessons and performances with little thought for the problems of damage or theft. Even a relatively modest flute or clarinet can cost several hundred pounds to replace, yet few are adequately included in the insurance equation.

Thirty minutes of unattended "in-vehicle" cover, to account for loading up and unloading, is generally standard.

Perhaps surprisingly, busking is not considered an issue, despite the greater possibility of damage to your instrument and the fact that, strictly speaking, it is an illegal activity.

q Contacts: Musicians Union insurance advisory service (through Victor C Knight) 0181-886 4202; Minet 0800 387250; British Reserve, specialist musical instrument arm of Cornhill Insurance, 01892 515244.