I've had a home studio for a few years now that I use mainly for my own projects and some commissioned work. I'm occasionally asked to record people and am usually paid a small fee for doing so, though it doesn't form a large part of my business. My equipment is insured in the usual way, but do I need to worry about any other factors, such as public liability, when insuring my studio?
Owen Morrison, via email
SOS contributor Mike Senior replies: If your gear is already insured, the main question when recording other people in your home is one of public liability. In other words, if the artist trips over their stompbox and impales themselves messily on your lava lamp, will you be covered when their relatives sue for compensation? If you were recording entirely as a hobby, then you'd probably be covered in such situations under your normal household insurance policy, although (as with anything relating to insurance) this is something that you need to check in the policy particulars to be absolutely sure of. However, the fact that you're making some money from your recording, albeit small, may disqualify your studio activities from this domestic public liability cover, in which case you might feel you need an additional professional public liability policy. It may be that you can negotiate a certain degree of wiggle room with your domestic insurance provider, though, so it might be worth giving them a ring to confirm exactly what is and isn't covered in this respect, and how much you are able to earn from your studio work while still qualifying for cover under a domestic policy.
If you've insured your gear with a specialist music technology insurer, you may find that you already have professional public liability cover built into this insurance, and that's all well and good, if so. If not, then you have to make a judgement call as to whether the risk of a compensation claim is high enough to warrant the yearly cost of dedicated public liability cover. It's not illegal to do studio work without public liability insurance, but unless you know your clients very well, it's probably a bit of a foolhardy economy given the litigious times in which we live.
Adrian Scott, head of Musicguard, adds: If you use your home for business purposes, however infrequently, you'll almost certainly need to let your home insurer know to ensure your cover isn't affected. Most standard home insurance policy wordings specifically exclude business equipment (other than for clerical purposes) from their contents cover, which would include your music equipment. Worryingly, you may find other aspects of your insurance are invalidated simply by running a business from home unless you get their acceptance regardless of how you choose to insure your equipment. An extreme example may be that if the equipment you were using causes a fire due to some form of electrical failure. In this example your insurer may refuse to pay out a claim as the incident occurred due to business activities that they had not been made aware of. Insurers usually state quite clearly that you must inform them if your home is used for business purposes, and may reduce, or even turn down, a claim payout if they feel you haven't been open with them.
As Mike stated, a specialist music insurance policy will cover your gear whether you're using it for business or pleasure, giving you the breadth of cover you'd expect, such as theft, accidental damage, loss or mechanical/electrical breakdown, and will almost certainly come with public liability included, or at least be an option. Just make sure that the money you're already spending on insurance to protect your home and other possessions isn't wasted because you've fallen foul of their small print.