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Best Options for Shipping Gear to/from Europe for Live Show

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  • Best Options for Shipping Gear to/from Europe for Live Show

    Hi guys,
    I need to ship a lot of gear (racks, pedalboards) to Finland for a live performance and am being asked a quote for shipping costs.
    Assuming most gear will be in Anvil ATA Flight cases, what would be my best option in terms of cost? Of course safety of the gear is key as well.

    I guess the main alternative is between shipping UPS, Fedex etc. in advance vs. checking the gear as excess baggage on the flight.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    Many thanks


  • #2
    Didn't we do this a year ago last March for your San Francisco gig? How did that turn out for you? In addition to the troubles of shipping equipment and the associated losses and delays, especially for a one-off overseas, you're now introducing a completely different AC power system to account for. 220V. My brief search didn't turn up the frequency, but while your hair dryer may not care, I'm guessing your electronic equipment may if it's not designed for universal voltage options. I'd still recommend contacting a back-line house in Finland. If you still want to ship your gear, make sure to advance your electrical needs with your purchaser and do it in writing and confirm that with whomever they choose to use to provide this service.


    I love to sing, and I love to drink scotch. Most people would rather hear me drink scotch.


    • #3
      Don't forget the customs dec's, and the paperwork going both ways. For international travel, less is more.

      Figure on using an international freight forwarding company that can handle all of this for you. FedEx can work for this but prepare for sticker shock. Rough guesstimate is $2k for both ways with paperwork, and inland freight.


      • #4
        I suggest for international parcel shipments, check with UPS or FedEx interational... they have folks who specialize in this sort of thing, and they have an economy of scale going for them that will likely be difficult to otherwise beat.


        • #5
          Hey guys, thanks for all the knowledgeable responses...

          Yes, trevcda, I asked a similar question last year for San Francisco (good memory!).
          I shipped the gear in well padded boxes and SKB cases via UPS and it turned out to be a huge cost (tab picked up by the Festival). Upon arrival my Furman power conditioner was FUBAR. Other than that no probs (it was well worth it because the San Francisco's Examiner's review dubbed the performance as "An astonishing mix of Hendrix, Badalamenti, Vaughn and The Edge"... don't know that I deserved that great an accolade, but hey).

          Now here we're talking even greater costs because it is international. I have tried to downsize the amount of gear (Axe FX II ...gotta luv it) but it is hard to cut your fave analog pedals. It seems that UPS air freight options are cheaper. But maybe there are specialized freight forwarders that can do it for cheaper... ? Any reliable names out there? The power issue also is one to look into as well as customs.

          thanks again



          • #6
            Can you just rent gear there?


            • #7
              Oh I would love to rent everything locally!... problem is it is a very specific project (live solo guitar score for a classic silent film) with a very specific sound and setup involving live looping and specific effects... I am now using an Axe FX II which will allow me to cut some of the gear but not all...


              • #8
                A single international shipment would probably be easier on UPS or FedEx, but more expensive. We ship internationally at least every week and use Phenix International. We have a specific customs broker that handles all the paperwork.
                <div class="signaturecontainer">Engineering Axiom 21: Whomever has the key should be qualified.</div>


                • #9
                  A single international shipment would probably be easier on UPS or FedEx, but more expensive. We ship internationally at least every week and use Phenix International. We have a specific customs broker that handles all the paperwork.

                  Thanks for the suggestion. Phoenix only handle B2B and wouldn't do a one time "personal shipment".

                  Any other ideas?




                  • gspin
                    gspin commented
                    Editing a comment

                    Hi guys,

                    After a lot of thinking, trimming down gear and re-thinking I have reconsidered my options based on advice from people in similar situations I have come up with the plan below. 

                    I will need to do gigs in Europe (for now, Finland and Italy, both flying from NY) with a laptop, audio and midi interfaces, 4U of rack gear, 6 or 7 pedals,  2 midi pedalboards, cables, my guitar and a little backup gear.

                    So my thinking thus far is as follows:

                    1) I would NOT use a freight forwarder. Why? First because it means being without the gear for too long before the gig, and secondly because once you reach your destination, you have less control than with an airline over where the gear winds up if there is a delay/error.

                    2) I would plan to carry-on laptop plus a 2U rack unit (as to the case for them see below).

                    3) I would check my guitar in its Anvil case at the gate (i.e., not checked as regular luggage).  OR I COULD SUCK IT UP AND RENT LOCALLY (2 axes, 1 as backup).  This is the only thing I could rent locally.

                    4) I would check everything else as luggage: wisdom indicates I should forget rack cases or pedalboard cases (I have SKB and Pedaltrain hardcases for both uses, but am not confident they would fair well enough with baggage handlers). Instead I would pack each remaining piece individually in foam and/or cardboard boxes and put them INSIDE one or two large Pelican shipping cases (maybe with wheels). BTW, I will probably build a temporary pedalboard on site to avoid shipping a 32" board.  OR maybe use the lid of one of the cases.

                    Does anyone have any comments on this plan? Any suggestions as to the actual types of cases?

                    As to the carry-on, note that airlines like SAS or Finnair (which I will almost certainly need to fly with) have a carry-on weight restriction of only 8Kgs (17.6 lbs). That means the carry-on case would have to very light (roughly 8 lbs because my rack unit alone weight 10 lbs)! Maybe a soft case?

                    Any thoughts as to shipping cases?  The gig will be picking up shipping costs up to $600 each way.

                    Any further thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated!







                • #10


                  Contact the customer-service department of whichever airline you'll be flying with, and let them know about your concerns, well in advance. Hopefully, they'll be able to work with you, to lessen the stress and possible pitfalls. Check in EARLY, so you'll have time to deal with surprises, if they arise. Regarding "carry-on" luggage, not only is there a weight limit, but there is a volume limitl. Carry-on luggage MUST fit under the seat in front of you, or, in the overhead stowage bins. If you board the aircraft at the last minute, and the stowage bins are full, the crew has no choice but to remove your carry-on baggage, and have it stowed in the belly of the aircraft. If time doesn't permit, that item will be forwarded on the next available flight.This is due to safety regulations. Sometimes, the crew will have a spare cubby-hole for stowage, but don't count on it.

                  When you're booking your flight, check the number of open seats on the flight. A wide open flight gives the crew more possibilities of helping you out. If the flight is over-sold, stowage options will be at a minimum..

                  I worked as a Flight-Director for an international carrier, for 25 years (now retired). as a musician myself, I was well aware of how important your "tools" are, and I'd do just about anything I could to help passengers with these issues, including strapping a $1 million dollar Stradivarius to an open first-class seat, or asking the pilots if I could use space in their closet..On a full flight, those options are very limited, and often, non-existent.

                  Going back to my first point, about customer-service; they can sometimes communicate with the crew, prior to the flight, to make them aware of your circumstances, and if they can help you, they usually will. That customer-service agent MIGHT also be able to help you get your carry-on through security., For example, if security says the carry-on bag is a bit too big,,, customer-service can point out that they're aware, but that special arrangements have been made to allow this "exception" to the rule.

                  Veni, Vidi, Velcro;

                  (I came, I saw, I stuck around)


                  • gspin
                    gspin commented
                    Editing a comment

                    Thanks for these great suggestions.  Hopefully I will be able to pick an airline on which I have a lot of miles and that will also help.  I am aware of the size/weight restrictions.  Question is how rigid will they be as I may be a couple of pounds (I mean 2) over the limit...