If a world of disinterested music consumers and seedy record labels isn't bad enough, touring musicians now have another problem to deal with: Theft. Sure, it was always an issue, but never as much as it has become in the past year. Engine Down, Pretty Girls Make Graves, and a about a hundred other mid-to-low level indie bands have had their vans/trailers and equipment nabbed in the last year alone. Most notably, local stars The Decemberists were victims, having pretty much everything taken from them on March 17th. Since I hate to see the tender hearts of indie musicians break when their livelihoods are taken from them, here is a quick tutorial.

SLEEP IN THE GODDAMN VAN. Listen, I know being on tour is tough and there is nothing you want more than to roll out your sleeping bag on that stranger's hardwood floor and get some sleep, but you should NEVER leave your van and gear unattended. So draw straws or pick a number, (or just make the roadie do it), but just be sure that every night you have a van full of equipment someone is sleeping next to it.

Invest in a basic lock. Sure this won't prevent someone from nabbing the entire van, but a simple metal strip and heavy-duty padlock on the outer doors will keep equipment thieves from unloading the back of your van. See, all those years in metal shop are about to pay off. The Rum Diary were kind enough to send an example of their contraption--although it looks basic, it's kept this constantly touring band theft-free for close to five years now.

Be inconspicuous. I know you want everyone driving behind you to stare in awe at the bitchin' collection of band stickers on the back of your van, but it's also a big fat "steal me" to prospective thieves. How about lose the stickers and pretend that you're four traveling Mormon missionaries in a van? Mormons never have good shit to steal.

Get insured. MusicPro Insurance ( www. musicproinsurance.com) offers low-cost instrument and equipment plans, just in case your tour crosses paths with a meth-addled car thief with a penchant for stealing your wireless mic and Flying V axe.

Common sense. Park in well-lit areas, sandwich the van between two parked cars (thus making the unloading of your gear impossible), and don't think that hotel parking lots are safe. I know your job is to um, "rock", but it can't hurt to use your head every once in awhile.