Monday, April 2, 2012

Gear Up: Getting the most bang, boom and crash for your buck!

Part 1 of 2.

When was the last time you made a significant purchase for your rig? I mean a purchase of at least $100 dollars. I know that for some of you $100 isn’t very much, but for me that’s a major purchase!
Today we’re going to take a look at how to keep your expenses down while you keep up your kit.
Have cash in hand.
This is good advice for buying virtually anything, but it’s especially important if you want to get a good deal on a major purchase. Put simply, money talks. Whether you’re buying new or used, make sure you actually have the ability to make the purchase before you start trying to make a deal. 
Cash also has a sort of magic to it when you’re bargaining, even in a retail establishment. You may find that you can get a better deal when the seller knows that you can pay now and that you’re prepared to walk away if it isn’t a good deal for both parties. (For more about saving and managing money, visit Dave Ramsey’s web page.)
For those of us who are fortunate enough to be making a few dollars playing music, I recommend that you set aside a certain amount (at least 15%) from each gig that will only be used on instruments or related equipment and supplies. If you’re consistent and committed to this, it shouldn’t take long before you’ll have a tidy little pile of cash so that you can make careful, relevant purchases when you need to.
A nice side benefit of having a little cash on hand is that you can take care of an emergency without having to forego paying the light bill. Just last fall I had a microphone die (my Beta 52, so it’s not like I could just go without), and I had the cash on hand to replace it with no hassle. I’ll have to put off that new snare drum for a little longer, but my mic dying could have also been a financial problem. It wasn’t.
Be realistic about your needs and priorities.
Unless you’re Terry Bozzio, you probably don’t need 24 chromatically tuned toms or 44 relative-pitch cymbals - and don’t even think about the gongs, my friends. You may have a dream kit on your mind, but you need to focus on the things that will have the most positive impact on you, your playing and your career right now
That being said, I have a long wish list, too, and a lot of it is totally unrelated to what I actually need. But at the top of my list are the things that will improve my sound, make me more versatile (and marketable), and will help me expand where, how often and with whom I’ll be able to play. 
So, while you may really want that shiny new quadruple bass drum pedal with matching soda dispenser, it may be more important to get a solid ride cymbal, hi-hat stand or snare drum. Establish your priorities, and always get the most important things first

Know the numbers.
I worked in a retail music store for several years. I was amazed by people who had (or have) absolutely no clue about price. This was especially true of younger players, beginners and their parents. What is the internet for if not for finding prices and values? Can you say “eBay?” 
As with saving up money in advance, you need to know what you can expect to pay for something so that you’ll know a good deal when you see one. It also helps to know the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price - you should NEVER pay this amount for anything!), the MAP (minimum advertised price, although not all brands/items have one), and the street price (average that you’ll pay for it new). 
If you’re buying used, even if something’s in perfect condition, you should never pay more than about 80% of the new street price. The only exception to this rule is if you can be sure that the warranty is still in effect and you get the original packaging and purchase receipt so that you can get help if you have a problem. Also, some manufacturers will only warranty the product to the original purchaser, meaning that the warranty is voided as soon as you buy it from a private individual.

More next week!

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