A recent piece titled The 7 Laws of Borrowing Gear From Other Musicians was posted to the Reverb Blog. The vast majority of comments to the blog post were some variation of Nigel Tufnel’s “don’t touch it” reaction in This Is Spinal Tap. Very few saw the need or had interest in letting other musicians borrow their gear.
The post began with an anecdote of guitarist Larry Carlton showing up for a UK gig and his amplifier not arriving. Yikes, stressful. Larry called on his social media followers to let him borrow an amp for the night.
As it turns out, for touring musicians, this is not an uncommon issue. Two years ago in the summer of 2017, Dweezil Zappa had the head stock of his Gibson SG (in)conveniently removed by the baggage carrying staff of American Eagle Airlines while on tour. Total suckfest. But, Dweezil made lemonade out of the lemons that life handed to him. On Instagram, he listed the next three cities of his tour and asked for fans to let him play their guitars for those remaining shows. His followers responded with dozen of offers – deepening his connection with the Zappa fan base while giving him something to play on stage.
So, the need for temporarily using other musician’s gear is real and ongoing. Plus, it can produce win-win outcomes. Fans get to hear their music and artists get to perform (and presumably get paid).
On the whole, most of the Reverb suggestions were well-reasoned and prudent, especially in the context of borrowing an instrument. But, what if the model for instrument consumption was about “sharing” (aka renting) – just like exists for homes (e.g., Airbnb) or automobiles (e.g. Uber or ZipCar)? If sharing was the context, like the instruments listed on Fretish, then some of the laws in this blog post would need an update, as I detail below.
The writer, Rich Maloof, started with “Be selective” as the first law, by which he meant don’t borrow expensive gear. Well, when you’re on a sharing platform, you should be selective based on what you need to play, not on the value of the instrument. Why? Because the value of the instrument is going to be reflected in the price you’ll pay in order to use it. On Fretish, people who make their instruments available for sharing set their own price. Generally, this results in higher quality instruments costing more for a sharing (rental) period. So, a Martin OM-28v would cost nearly $55/night while a Yamaha acoustic would be $10/night.
Because you’re paying someone to play their instrument in a sharing context, then the law to “Acknowledge graciously” is somewhat moot. Yes, by all means thank the instrument owner for letting you use their gear. But, you won’t need to buy an extra pack of strings or buy someone cup cakes as a way of paying them back. You’ve already paid them – with money (which has been done online by Fretish as the payment processor).
The last revision to the “7 Laws” blog post pertains to Rich’s final suggestion, in which he offers two options one could take if a borrower were to damage a musical instrument. Option B, he says, is that they should flee the country. NO. There are not two options – whether you are borrowing or sharing! There is only one option: You make the instrument owner completely whole. Because payment information is captured up front from a renter on Fretish, the ability to make the instrument owner whole is fast. Thankfully, since Fretish launched in 2017, all transactions on the platform have been positively rated and reviewed, with no instruments damaged, lost or stolen.
This court is adjourned.