Bear with me, the beer has a reason for being….
I have never been much of a fan of borrowing or loaning out gear. Back when I was first getting started as a sound editor 30 years ago I really appreciated being able to borrow a MKH416 from an encouraging facility friend, so I had a pair to record ambiences & things with my portable DAT machine…. But ever since I have aspired to be self sustaining, saving up & buying the gear I need…
Occasionally people would ask to borrow equipment – often microphones, and while it was usually someone I knew very well & trusted, I noticed an odd trait. People tended to be very good at picking up gear, but not so great at returning it. Even if they only needed it for a single recording event, it often took a week for me to get it back and sometimes I had to make an excuse and drive to them to retrieve it. The more this happened the less I felt inclined to loan out my equipment, and after the last time I swore to myself that I wouldn’t loan out gear again for free. If asked I felt as an experiment I might instead offer to rent it out with an added a daily fee for late return… eg if a microphone is costing $100 a day then a week late equals an extra $700 on the invoice.
Thankfully I haven’t needed to bother… But recently I was reminded of how contras and goodwill work. A number of times I have rented instruments from a local percussionist who has a great collection, and if he doesn’t have something, he very likely knows who does. He helped me directly by renting me gongs and tam tams for HISSandaROAR.. and again with two waterphones, as additions to the two I own.
So when he emailed recently asking if he could rent one of my waterphones for use in a ballet production of Hansel & Gretal, I was happy to help and refused any payment. Goodwill and good karma deserves reward so I was happy to help and he let me know when the production was finished and that he would be in touch to return it. And of course he did exactly that, we arranged to meet in town and when I caught up with him he had a couple of six packs of very nice Garage Project beer under his arm. I was genuinely surprised, and thanked him and have been enjoying drinking them, as evidenced by the photo above. But it was also a good reminder of how goodwill works, and I thought it is advice worth sharing.
If you borrow someones equipment, there are some essential basics that you need to get right.
– what equipment are you borrowing?
– when are you picking it up?
– when are you returning it?
– who covers insurance while you have it?
– what is the daily or weekly rate?
Now one last bit of advice. If someone says they don’t want to charge for it and are happy for you to use it without paying, thank them but also do a little research and find a way to repay them in kind. A bottle of wine, some beer, chocolates, petrol voucher, whatever is their preference. It will likely mean more than if you had rented it and were handing over cash, because it is unexpected and it shows you appreciate the help in a way that lip service may not.
I would have been totally happy to get nothing for my waterphone loan, as I appreciate the help I have received in the past, and I will likely request help in the future. But the beers made me smile, because here was someone who appreciated a favour and knew to show appreciation and to not take it for granted.