The rest of the team have shared their approaches to security in their private studios. I’m going to take a look at security in studios in institutions. There is a fundamental difference here - In a private studio you can protect equipment by limiting access to the space. Unfortunately you can’t do that in an institution and much of the access you will be offering is unsupervised. What are the risks and how can you mitigate them?
In my ten plus years of managing studios in educational settings I have come to realise that the most effective weapon you have available to protect your studio is through the culture of the institution. If you lock something away from people you can’t trust, then the first time you forget to lock that thing away it will get probably get stolen. Sad but true, I know from experience. After all, it’s what you were expecting, that’s why you locked it away. If however you instil a culture of conditional trust, where everyone can access what they want freely, but that freedom only exists because of the trust which exists then everyone using that studio stands to lose something if anyone were to compromise that trust. Over ten years I can honestly say this approach works.
This sounds like the perfect solution as if it works you are getting your studio users to police themselves. This is true but it takes constant work. Your carefully nurtured group identity of honest students can be eroded and it never happens with a high profile theft of an expensive mic. It happens the way teenagers always confront authority, through erosion from the bottom. If people can steal a headphone adapter, why not the headphones etc, etc until people are helping themselves to bigger things (this would be a good time to tell the true story of the 27” iMac carried out of an institution by a student carrying it in an artist’s portfolio case…).
There are of course other measures which can, and should be taken. Here are some essentials:
All equipment should be visibly marked in a way which is difficult to remove. If a thief can’t openly use equipment it is less desirable. Equipment should also be invisibly marked. UV pens are OK. Smart Water is better but the important thing about invisible marking is that it shouldn’t be a secret. Make it very clear that equipment is invisibly marked. It is there to discourage theft, not to identify stolen goods. The aim is not to get your equipment stolen in the first place.
Loss vs Misplacement
99% of missing equipment in institutions is mislaid. Any steps you can take to make sure your equipment doesn’t go astray will reduce this. A simple but very effective solution I put in place years ago is to order custom cables for each studio space specifying a different colour cable for each space. The up front costs are significant but it saves time and money in the long term. Don’t be tempted to try the cheap way and use coloured XLR boots, labels, coloured PVC tape or similar. They can and will get removed. Using coloured cables you can tell at a glance if a cable is in the wrong place. In my case this system, combined with regular checks, reduced cable loss to virtually zero in my studio.
Please Share Your Experiences
We know that there are plenty of members of our community who have to think about these issues. Please share your experiences and any tricks you might have come up with.
Come back for part two in which I will be exploring at how equipment purchases can differ from a private purchase and once bought, how to minimise the time you have to spend keeping track of where it is.