Musicians – whether you’re a casual weekend hobbyist or a full-out road warrior playing to sold-out stadiums on tour, there’s a high likelihood that you’ve felt the urge to buy some new gear to bolster your sound. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of hitting that first note with a brand new fuzz pedal, or blowing that first note through a new horn. It’s a glorious feeling that musicians chase with every new gear purchase they make, but there’s no way around the fact that musical gear is expensive.
Musical instruments are an investment, and it’s definitely worth your time to treat your next gear purchase as such. We’re going to take a look at how you can shop smart and save money, while getting the gear you want.
You might already have a specific piece of gear in mind, or maybe you’re just starting your musical journey and don’t know where to begin. Either way, it’s a good idea to gather some information before you buy anything – you want to know exactly what you’re getting into.
Youtube is a great place to start, for a couple of reasons:
- If you’ve narrowed down your choices already, you can likely find product demos of the gear on your shortlist. Hearing gear in action can really help you decide whether or not it’s right for you.
- Even if you’re totally new to making music, Youtube has tons of content for all musicians regardless of skill level, and there’s plenty of videos dedicated to helping you get on your feet – everything from picking out your first instrument to playing your first notes. Once you’ve got an idea of what you’re looking for, spend some time browsing retailers’ websites to figure out what options are available to you.
Some retailers to check out:
Forums are another great way to gather information – sites like Harmony Central have long been pillars in the musician community for discussion on gear, sounds, and everything related to making music. Harmony Central in particular is well known for its detailed user reviews and its active and vocal community; If you have a question about any gear, chances are that question has already been answered – just do a quick search and see for yourself. If it hasn’t been answered yet, you can always ask the community.
Oftentimes, the easiest way to save some money on musical gear (and pretty much anything else you might shop for on the internet) is to do some price comparisons. That shiny new piece of kit you’re looking at could be cheaper at other retailers across the web, and as the saying goes, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”
Google Shopping is a great tool to use when doing price comparisons. Besides its ability to compare product prices across different retailers, it’s great because it allows you factor in shipping costs and sales tax for retailers based on your location.
Coupons are a quick and easy way to shave a little extra off that final price. There are a couple of ways to find coupons for musical gear:
- Coupon Sites
- Email Newsletters
- Retailers typically have a newsletter that can help you stay in the loop with upcoming sales and offers. Every once in a while, some retailers like Guitar Center & Sam Ash will even send out coupons exclusive to newsletter recipients! Keep in mind that retailers often center sales around major holidays and plan accordingly – you can easily grab a cool 20% off your purchase if you’re ok with playing the waiting game.
Make a Call
Can’t find any coupons for what you’re looking for and too impatient to wait for a sale? Another possible way to save some money is to purchase over the phone. Most online music retailers have phone sales – don’t be shy about calling in and asking about any offers they may have available. Even if there aren’t any special offers going on, there’s a fair chance you may be able to snag a sizable discount just by politely asking for one. Of course, your mileage may vary on this method – some retailers are more likely to give a discount over the phone than others.
Consider Used Gear
If you’re looking for the very deepest in discounts, used gear and demo stock are definitely worth a shot.
If you’re shopping for used gear through a major retailer (Musician’s Friend, Sam Ash, American Musical), here’s what you might see:
- Demo models: lightly used gear that has been displayed on a showfloor at some point
- ”Blems”: instruments that have factory defects, but are otherwise in good, playable condition
- ”Open box”: gear that was purchased and returned by another customer.
Generally speaking, buying demo models and blems from major retailers is a safe bet and a good way to save money while buying gear, but be sure to check on return policy and warranty information before you buy, just to be extra safe.
Reverb.com is a musical instrument marketplace that has been quickly growing its user base ever since it was created in 2013, and it’s definitely worth a shot if you’re shopping for used gear. It’s a little different from buying used gear from a major retailer, because you’ll primarily be dealing with individual sellers.
- Purchase protection: learn more here.
- This is actually a great tool to use even when buying used gear elsewhere – you can keep track of short and long-term trends in pricing on the gear you’re looking for, across different conditions of usage (new, used, non-functioning).
EBay and Craigslist have long been hubs for buying and selling used musical gear, and there’s plenty of great deals to be found – Just be sure to cover all your bases before you commit to buying. Generally speaking, there’s a bit more to be wary of when dealing with these avenues for buying used gear.
eBay gear shopping tips:
- When looking at an item on eBay, always take a look at the seller’s reputation and selling history. If the seller has a low reputation or a lack of selling history, take caution before proceeding.
- If you’re planning on bidding on something, contact the seller beforehand and confirm shipping costs. Keep in mind that large items like amp cabinets and combo amps can be very costly to ship.
- Exercise caution when buying fragile gear – particularly gear that uses vacuum tubes, like guitar amps. Shipping can be a rough process, and repair can be costly.
Craigslist gear shopping tips:
- Watch out for listings with generic product photos. This is a red flag, and may indicate that the seller doesn’t actually have the item in question.
- If you have any questions, make sure to ask them through email before you agree to meet the seller. There are 2 benefits here: you can confirm that the seller has first-hand knowledge about the gear they’re selling, and you could potentially weed out any sketchy or fake listings.
- Make sure to inspect the gear thoroughly to make sure everything works correctly, or is as described on the item’s listing. If you don’t know what to check for, consider bringing an experienced friend to help you make sure everything is ok.
- Stay safe!
Hopefully the information here helps you save some cash on your neverending quest to find great tones. May your future be filled with savings and mountains of cool gear!