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Getting Your Gear Fix in a Down Economy

You don''t have to give up buying gear as the economy slows -- you just have to be smarter about it

Wake up, gear junkies! Spring Break is over, and “Stomp School” is back in session. This month we’ll be sharing some tips on getting your fill of new gear in spite of the sour economy. It seems like all we hear about is how bad the recession is. It’s hard not to get discouraged. Here’s the thing, though: when people start freaking out, stop spending, and become misers, it actually makes the situation worse. Cutting back or eliminating your gear purchases hurts business for music retailers (especially your favorite mom-and-pops), which in turn affects the manufacturers. Besides, depriving yourself of new gear just isn’t fun! Gear Acquisition Syndrome beckons, and it cares nothing about the state of the economy. There’s no doubt that you’ll want to be prudent with your purchases. Fair enough. A little strategic planning is all that’s necessary to satisfy your sonic desires while working within a limited budget. Here are some ideas to keep the flow of abundance alive in your musical life:

Do your homework. When planning your next purchase, make sure you’ve shopped around enough to get the best price. This may seem like stating the obvious, since many of us do it anyway. But beware the temptation to give into impulse buying. And for cryin’ out loud, don’t get into any bidding wars on eBay! If you’ve set your budget and you’ve done your homework, then you can feel confident in making a rational, thought-out purchase.

Buy assets. In other words, purchase items that are likely to hold their value. This means buying used when it makes sense to do so. When buying new, high-quality gear is usually a better bet than cheaper, mass-produced stuff, and it will usually have a better resale value. And if you’ve ever wanted to buy vintage, now’s the time. History has shown that the value of vintage guitars, amps, and effects will generally appreciate over time. In fact, over the past decade, the vintage guitar market has outperformed the stock market by a fair margin. There was a pretty big spike in vintage prices a couple of years ago, before the recession knocked them back down. But the market will likely return with the growth of the economy, and vintage musical gear is looking to be a better, more stable investment than stocks (not to mention a whole lot more enjoyable).

Don’t be afraid to make an offer. As a dealer, it makes me cringe to say this, but it can’t hurt to ask your seller if there’s a little flexibility in the asking price, especially on used equipment. Many boutique items don’t have a big mark up to begin with, but your seller may have other criteria that you’re not aware of—you never know. The worst they can say is no. Remember to be respectful, and don’t make any lowball offers if you want to be taken seriously.

Rekindle an old romance. Remember that overdrive pedal you fell in love with? Now it’s sitting in the corner of your practice room gathering dust. What happened? Maybe you switched amps and it just didn’t sound the same; or you may have switched from single coils to humbuckers, or vice versa. Maybe the novelty wore off, or it got bumped off your board by a new love. Whatever the case, if you’re feeling strapped for cash, this may be the perfect time to get reacquainted with your neglected gear.

Trade your unwanted gear. Most of us have at least some gear that we just don’t use anymore, certain pieces we may have outgrown or perhaps never really bonded with in the first place. This is especially true with guitar pedals. But even if it’s not useful to you, your unwanted gear still has some monetary value, which you can use toward your next exciting purchase. Straight-up trades with other musicians can work really well. And of course, most music stores will take trade-ins. You’re likely to take a beating at the mega-stores, but there are a number of specialty shops that could be willing to work with you on a deal.

So there it is. With the right attitude and approach, you can fully enjoy your share of gear indulgences without worry. And remember, it’s fear that’s fueling this recession. Don’t buy into poverty consciousness and media-driven panic. After all, FEAR is often little more than False Evidence Appearing Real. Allow me to quote the immortal words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, from his first inaugural address 76 years ago (at the height of the Great Depression): “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance…”

Now go get your gear fix on. Check back with us again next month for more pedalmania. Until then, keep on stompin’!

Tom Hughes
(a.k.a. Analog Tom) is the owner and proprietor of For Musicians Only ( and author of Analog Man’s Guide To Vintage Effects. Questions or comments about this article can be sent to:

Analog Man
( is one of the largest boutique effects manufacturers and retailers in the business, established by “Analog” Mike Piera in 1993. Mike can be reached at