While Montreal has a history of producing celebrated musical acts like Arcade Fire and Chromeo, lately, the city has become a hotspot for something less desirable: instrument thefts.

Among the growing list of victims is Canadian rock veterans April Wine, who have toured the world for four decades.

The band has been ripped off twice in Montreal: the first time, thieves made away with two of Breen Leboeuf's prized basses, including a rare acoustic instrument, from his car. And last year, thieves grabbed one of Brian Greenway's favourite guitars after a gig.

"I couldn't believe it was gone. I wasn't insured, none of my stuff was insured," he said, adding that he now insures all of his gear.

More recently, thieves in the city ripped off a truck stacked with gear belonging to punk godfather Iggy Pop and his backing band.

Several vintage guitars and amplifiers were stolen, including bassist Mike Watt's one-of-a-kind 1963 Gibson, which he had used for decades.

While Iggy Pop's stolen gear was appraised at tens of thousands of dollars, for many musicians, an instrument is a priceless tour companion that can inspire both creativity and impassioned performances.

Still, it's not just high-profile rockers who get ripped off. In fact, it's usually struggling musicians who are targeted, since they are forced to tour in small vans instead of busses and can't hire security to watch their gear after a gig.

Worse yet, up-and-comers often don't have the bankroll to immediately replace their instruments, making the loss even more pronounced.

Thieves grabbed a bunch of gear from Montreal hip-hop crew Loco Locass recently, stealing instruments, recording equipment and a computer.

"I started screaming when I saw this," said Chafik, one of the band's members. Not only did the thieves grab his bass, which was a high school gift from his mom, but they also walked away with a computer which contained all of the band's recordings.

Instrument thefts becoming increasingly common

For thieves, instruments are a boon. Not only do newer instruments have a strong resale value, but a well-built instrument only becomes more valuable with age.

For example, more than 28 people were pining to buy a vintage 1957 Gibson Les Paul recently listed on eBay. The price tag: US$112,500.

Plus, unlike stealing a sports car, a hot guitar is easy to hide and transport, meaning the chance of tracking down a piece of missing gear is slim. For these reasons, such reports seem to be on the upswing in many cities.

Some notable recent thefts include:

  • In September 2008, a Rickenbacker guitar belonging to R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck was stolen from the stage during a gig in Helsinki, Finland. Luckily, it was returned later that month.
  • In July 2007, American indie group Deerhunter was robbed at gunpoint after a gig in Atlanta.
  • In 2006, proto-grunge group Dinosaur Jr. was ripped off when thieves stole their touring van from a parking lot in Long Island City, N.Y.
  • In late November, 2006, punk/metal singer Danzig's touring van was ripped off in Santa Cruz, Calif.
  • In 1999, all of Sonic Youth's touring gear was stolen during a tour stop in Florida. Three custom guitars have since been recovered.
  • During a 1995 tour, thieves took all of Radiohead's gear in Denver. The band was forced to borrow instruments from tour mates Soul Asylum and skipped the city on several subsequent tours.