Thinking of buying or renting gear? Here’s what you may want to consider first
If you’ve recently become a musician, know that you’ve just taken up one of the most expensive hobbies known to humankind. Welcome. If you’ve been doing this for a while, good to see you’re still with us. How’s your wallet doing?
Yes, buying gear can be painfully expensive (or it can be quite cheap if you want it to be – but where’s the fun in that?). But it’s also incredibly rewarding, exciting, and creatively inspiring. There’s nothing quite like getting your hands on your dream synth, or the microphone that’s going to make you sound like Michael Jackson or Joey Ramone or something, or a guitar that’s older than you are.
If you’re on the hunt for some new gear, a couple of things might cross your mind. Do you buy new or old? Do you look at shops, online marketplaces, or Facebook groups? Do you buy in Australia or overseas? We’ll cover all this below.
Renting gear is also something you may need to think about at some point. Maybe you’re putting on a DIY house party and you need to rent a PA system. Maybe you’re a DJ and you need to hire some decks for a set. Or maybe you’re a band on tour and your amp just blew up.
When it comes to buying and renting gear, there are lots of things you may need to consider. Let’s take a look.
Buying New Gear
The easiest way to split this article up is to consider the process of either buying gear that’s new or used. This will have the impact on where you should look.
Buying new gear most definitely has its benefits. First of all, it’s basically guaranteed that what you’re buying will be in 100% working order, and if it’s not, you know exactly where to go to either have it fixed or replaced. Most new gear will also come with a manufacturer warranty so that if you do have issues down the track, you won’t have to fork out to have them fixed.
Buying new also means you know exactly what you’re getting, 100% to spec. You don’t want to buy a guitar second hand only to find out the pickups were replaced a couple of years ago, or an analog synth that’s had some dodgy solder work done to its circuit board.
If you’re buying a new piece of gear, chances are you’ll be either be going to your local shop or buying from an online store. If you’re going down the latter route, there are a couple of good Australian retailers to check out. Artist Guitars is where to go if you want to be kind to your wallet. They have a wide range of gear that is super affordable and really well crafted.
All of their guitars are under the $1K mark, most of them are well under. You can pick up a really solid Gibson ES-335 or Fender Jazzmaster copy for around $250-300, which is basically unheard of. They also sell amps, pedals, accessories, mics and other recording gear, drums and more, and everything is around the same price point. Definitely worth a look if you’re on a budget.
If you’re more into going to a shop and trying something out before you buy, then by all means, hunt down your local store and play away to your heart’s content.
Where you go will obviously depend on where you live. A couple of places we suggest are Global Vintage in Sydney if you’re looking for guitar pedals (they also have heaps of rad used guitars) or Store DJ if you’re after synths or studio gear. Deluxe Guitars if you’re in Melbourne and are a fan of boutique, hard to find guitar gear. And The Rock Inn if you’re in Perth.
Buying Used Gear
Buying new gear is safe and probably the better option if you know exactly what you want. But there are plenty of reasons that buying used gear might be the way to go for you.
Buying used is (usually) more affordable as gear immediately depreciates in value after it has been bought. Buying used also means you have way more to choose from, especially if you’re not super picky. For example, if you’re in the market for a new amp and don’t have anything specific in mind, the possibilities will be endless, and there’s a good chance you’ll find something you love and never knew you needed.
There are lots of options for buying used gear in Australia. Facebook groups are a big one, as are online marketplaces like Reverb.com and Gumtree. We’d also definitely recommend getting to know your local used gear shop. You’ll pay a little more here than through a private sale, but it’s worth it to know what you’re getting has been tested and is quality, and most of these stores are super friendly and offer warranties.
Illegal warehouse shows. House parties. Legit gigs in hired spaces. Putting on an event will mean you’ll need to hire some equipment. And (depending on the size of the space you’re taking over) you don’t need a huge amount of gear to make it sound and feel like a proper event.
DJ Warehouse have pretty much everything you need – whether it’s a house party at your mate’s place or a mini-festival. They supply front of house and foldback sound systems for bands, small PA systems for soloists/duos (with battery-powered options available), mics of all kinds, digital mixing desks, stages, lighting. You can even hire a mix engineer to make sure the sound runs smoothly.
If you’re starting out DJing or putting on events with DJs, chances are you won’t have your own gear and you’ll need to rent. The equipment you’ll need will depend on what you have and what’s supplied by the venue or promoter.
• Input devices. You’ll need at least two input devices. These are what allow DJs to blend tracks together to create a seamless mix of music. Depending on what format you’re using (MP3, CD, vinyl etc), you’ll either need a CDJs or turntables.
• A mixer. This is the centrepiece of the setup – the component that allows DJs to control the blend of tracks, levels, EQ and effects. The number of channels you’ll need will depend on how many input devices you have (one channel per input device). This is also where you connect your front of house and foldback speakers.
• Headphones. It’s likely you have access to headphones, but if you don’t or if they aren’t up to scratch, it’s definitely something you’ll need to rent. Headphones allow DJs to listen to tracks that have been cued without them being played over the front of house. They also allow you to hear what is being played more clearly, allowing you to make necessary tweaks on your mixer.
• Sound system. You’ll need a sound system to play the music to an audience. How many speakers you need and what size they are will depending entirely on the size of your event.
Again, DJ Warehouse have all you need, whether you’re organising gear at a party, wedding, club or festival.
Planning a tour can be stressful for a number of reasons. One of the biggest is figuring out how you are going to cart your gear around the country, and if you can’t, how you’re going to ensure you have backline in each city or town you’re playing in; and, of course, another is budget.
If you’re able to hire a van or bus big enough to carry you, your band and/or crew and all of your gear, good for you. If you aren’t (or if you’re flying), you’ll be faced with the daunting (and extremely boring) task of sourcing gear for all of your shows. There are two ways to go about this.
1) Ask the support bands. This one’s obvious. Borrowing gear makes the music world go ’round. Hit up the bands who you are playing with, ask politely if you can borrow their gear. Don’t be a dick. Treat it with respect. Buy them a beer afterwards.
2) Hire gear. If you don’t want to put your faith in the word of local bands or risk ending up with sub-par gear (or none at all – it’s happened), you’ll have to hire gear locally. This can mess with your carefully planned (and likely razor-thin) tour budget, but if you’re smart and organised, it doesn’t have to be super expensive.
Everywhere Roadie is an awesome equipment rental service aimed at the average touring musician. Launched in 2016 by Melbourne musicians Kate Bradley (aka Ramona Moore of Dark Fair), Liz Thomas (Ouch My Face) and Martin MacDonald (Son Of Sea), it’s an easy-to-use platform that allows musicians all over the country to put their gear up for rent, and for touring musicians to borrow them at a low price.
“We thought about all the unused kits and amps that must be sitting in garages across the country and how we could connect the people who own this gear with the people who need it. Everywhere Roadie is a marketplace for musicians that aims to reduce the cost of touring and give artists an opportunity to make some money by hiring out their gear when it’s not being used.”
Check it out here.