In light of the many, many ways we are daily inundated with music gear pictures, ads videos and the like, it’s absolutely harder than ever to keep serious G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome!) from bubbling up and over.
Only the loud survive, which is of course why so many (including YOU, apparently) want to know how to buy music gear online so you can get it in your calloused little guitar/violin/bass/etc. fingers as SOON AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE.! Believe me, my friend…I know the feeling.
We’re Not in Brick & Mortar Anymore, Toto!
Finding out how to buy music gear online is easier than ever thanks to HUGE marketplaces on our beloved Internet (I’m aiming my guitar neck at YOU, Amazon!) and all they’ve put in place to ease the suffering of those of us with chronic, unending G.A.S.
But it’s important to keep in mind the differences that set online shopping apart from, say, hanging out in your usual ‘drool corner’ at Guitar Center. Let’s take a look:
- “ARE ALL THESE YOUR GUITARS??!! – Oh man! Oh man! Can you BELIEVE all the dangle-y little gear carrots they’re putting in front of our glassy computer eyes these days?! How can they do that?! Don’t we know how much we SUFFER??!! In any case, ‘virtual cornucopia’ would not be hyperbole now for the sheer vastness of music gear selection we have at our fingertips. Soooooooo many choices!! So little….cash. I think I’ve been there a couple times. The large selection is either a blessing or a curse, depending on your ‘Consumer Character’ – are you a research-driven and decisive tweaky gear-head? Or a site-page-wandering wonderer who’s never quite sure if you’ve found ‘the right one’ (and, no, I don’t mean finding a mate that LIKES you buying gear!)? If you tend to freeze up at all-you-can-eat buffets, well…maybe a local store IS better for you. But if you’re like me and love it…let’s move on.
- WAIT…IT’S HOW MUCH?? – Dude….prices are all over the MAP online, I’m telling you. If you don’t put in due diligence to know what price range any piece of gear should fall into, you can seriously end up spending WAAAAAAY more than you need to on that current ‘shiny bauble’ of equipment you’re eyeing. The same units online can list for HUNDREDS of dollars apart. No joke. So….check it out on several if not many sites. You’ll thank me later.
- THE FLANGING INTAGIBLES – So, the fact that you can’t actually touch or see the product you’re wanting might make you nervous about a potential purchase, and with good reason. But there again, if you put in the right amount and the right quality of research, you can definitely be assured that at least the piece is SUPPOSED to work fine with whatever system or rig you currently use. Just know that you’ll never reeeeeally know how any piece of music gear is going to sound until it’s actually in your system. That’s true with local stores too, to some extant, but I’ve taken parts of my system in to a local shop before to verify connections and such. With Internet stores, that’s not an option, so be very sure that the SPECS of your most recent beloved will play nicely with your other studio hardware friends.
- “DUDE – WHERE’S MY DUDE??” – Often in the past, many of us have worked with a specific person (could be dude OR dudette – no haters please) that knew us, knew our gear, knew our preferences, knew if we would or would not play “Stairway to Heaven” in the store…in short, it was our go-to person in a particular gear store. Online, you may fine that to be an option….or you may not. In fact, most times, sorry, you’re just gonna get whomever is not on their 3rd lunch. Now, that doesn’t have to be an issue, especially if you’re exactly sure of what you need. But if you prefer that, you’ll definitely be limited online to which site will provide that service.
If none of these differences deter you, and you still want to march onward, techie soldier, then let’s look at how to train for your imminent guerrilla sound-fare….
How to Prep a G.A.S. Attack!
There are things you can do to make your online music gear shopping experience one you’ll want to repeat, rather than one you’d like burn (you know, like those thousands of copies of Mix magazine in the basement that you still can’t quite bring yourself to toss?). Before you buy you’ll want to:
- INVESTIGATE YOUR SUSPICIONS – If you don’t read reviews, look at detailed pictures, consult online or paper gear catalogs and verify connection specs..dude…you are doomed to failure. Unless of course you are working with the rare store that will do that for you. Especially important is all those little CONNECTION points:: the ins, outs, jacks, dongles, ports. You may think everything’s compatible, but until you research and confirm it you’re really just playing piano in the dark. And not everybody can really do that without, uh…sucking.
- CONSULT YOUR HOMMIES – If you’re wanting music gear, then chances are you have played and created music with other people. Ask them about your potential purchase. Their insight might even take you in a different direction. They might show you how “this li’l beauty is really what you want.” After all, G.A.S. attacks aren’t really that picky about the objects of its affection. It just wants. And wants. And wants….
- HOLD TH’ PHONE! HOLD TH’ PHONE! – When you think you’ve confirmed that the unit will fit nicely into your set-up, do yourself a favor and make a quick, painless (usually) call to the online store of your choice and confirm it with a real human being. If you can’t reach one, go to another one. Two heads are better than one, remember? And since they work with gear for a living, they’re going to be a lot more familiar with”h a lot more gear than you. Use that to your advantage and have ’em confirm that this will work for you. This also defends your return if you end up having to send it back. “Raphael told me I didn’t need a SCSI port!” “Oh, well then we’re sorry, sir. Here’s your return authorization number…”. Yes, this has definitely happened before, and probably will again. So get a 2nd opinion.
- WAIT…IT’S HOW MUCH AGAIN?? – If you have a local store, give them a call and ask them if they have the item you want. If so, ask their price. If it’s higher (and it almost always is) ask them if they price match. If they do, you could potentially have your much-desired piece of equipment in minutes rather than days. Just make sure you can show them on your phone the exact ad you want them to match.
- I personally like to support a couple of local shops near me if they price match, because these are people that love music like I do but their business has SO much more overhead cost than online stores and I want to reward them for actually stocking instruments and gear I can pick up and play, or test run. That’s definitely worth supporting. Also, if you’re REALLY tight on cash, search for your new beloved on EBay or Craigslist and see if she makes an appearance. I personally have gotten two guitars from Craigslist that I now play all the time and sound GREAT. You just never know what’s out there ’til you look.
- “UMMM….THAT’S A KOHL’S RECEIPT.” – Before you sign on any dotted line, know all the ins and outs of the store’s RETURN POLICY. Do they accept gear back regardless? Does it have to appear brand new? Is it only returnable in the first week? First 30 days? 60 days? 90 days? Do you need the receipt or do they keep a copy for you? Do they pay shipping back or do you?? If it’s not in its original packaging, does it matter?? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you may end up with a very expensive paperweight that looks….and awful lot….like an amp!
- “OK, FIRST….IS IT PLUGGED IN?” – You may really want to invest in a piece of gear, but have no idea how huge of a learning curve there will be to use it, or how temperamental it might turn out to be linked with other pieces of equipment….or both. You may need a lot of help to save that session, or gig, to help you get on with earning more money so you can…uh…buy more….gear.
Most stores won’t help you after a purchase with HOW to use it or PROBLEMS you might have integrating it into your system. But there are a couple.
Before you pull the whammy bar, decide if this is beneficial to you or not and choose your online store accordingly. If anything seems awry after you buy, consulting experts often is the difference between working it out and keeping the product or sending it back and starting all over again.
Just know that not many stores have the expertise OR the department in place to assist you in product support. The manufacturers might, but they will be experts only in the product you just bought from them, not in the rest of your studio gear and how it must integrate.
READY? SET? CLICK!!
If you’ve jumped through all the above safety hoops, then you are ready to go! Buying online is usually pretty easy. If you’re working with an online store for the first time it’ll take a little longer while you type in all your billing info, but usually after that it’s saved so you can just click and go next time a bad G.A.S. attack rears its beautiful circuitry.
Make sure at the time of purchase you get two things: your online receipt to file AND the tracking number of the shipment, if available.
I enjoy the whole tracking of new piece of gear; the excitment is almost like a NASA lift-off – especially now that a DRONE might fly it to my door soon!!
I would also call the delivery company and find out if they need a SIGNATURE to leave your package, if you can’t find that information in the shipping info. If they need a signature, and you’re not home, well, then you’ll have to wait another day or LONGER for the newest member of your recording family. Who wants that? It sucks.
Welcoming the New Object of Your Affections
Once the delivery is made, try to stop doing your happy dance long enough to do these things (I know. It’s hard.):
- BOXING DAY – Open your gear boxes as if you want them to look new. Because…you do. For two reasons: first, if you have to return the unit, the store won’t give you grief, and second, if you ever want to SELL your new gear one day you can actually get more money for it if it looks new in the new-looking box it came in. Not much, mind you, but some.
- DOWNLOADS, MANUALS AND FILES, OH MY! – Put the manuals and all paperwork together and file them in a place that’s just for that. Organization of this kind will help you when frustration during the learning curve causes you to mutter things that are not mixed-company-appropriate. Many manuals will solve the problem without a call to anyone. Then again….some will not. Also, if there is a Registration or Warranty card to send through the mail, do so. Most companies now want you to sign up online for that though. Either way, make sure you do. It’ll bless you down the road if problems arise, plus often the manufacturers will send you special offers since you bought one of their products. They’re always gonna hope for more!
- NOW WHERE’S MY FINE TOOTH COMB….? – Get your new toy plugged in as soon as possible so you can verify that there was no shipping damage and that it’s working as it should. If there’s a problem you’ll want to jump on it quickly…and without question before the last return date (which you DO know, right? RIGHT??).
G.A.S. passed, sir!
And that’s that! For the moment anyway. Now that you know how to buy music gear online I’m sure, if you’re like me, you’ll avail yourself of its wonder any chance you get. Saves you gas. Usually saves you money. And is close at your fingertips when a new attack becomes joy-threatening.
But, hey, in the end we know G.A.S. is our friend, because every time we improve our sound with more blessed gear, we get closer to being that next Sting, that next Stevie, that next….ah, you fill in the blank. We’ve all got somebody riffing in our dreams. And don’t worry…..THEY probably have G.A.S. …just like you.