To Buy or Not to Buy

It’s come to that time of year again, AES, NAMM, Musikmesse, Gear Fest, etc., you name it. Everyone releases the latest gear with the newest iteration of technology to keep pace with the competition in the industry. Does it mean that you need to always be losing money on buying the latest and greatest gear, and changing out your equipment? Not necessarily.

The cycle never ends with the latest plugin, the newest converters, Thunderbolt connections, ADAT this, wordclock that, less jitter than ever before, etc. It all promises to make your mixing dreams come true and make you a better musician. Believe me that I am preaching to myself as much as anyone, but just stop it.

Stop thinking new gear will make you better.
Stop thinking new gear will get you clients.

The majority of people will say that you have to be the fully analog, “vintage” guy on the block, or alternatively you have to be on the bleeding edge of technology and upgrading all the time. I would like to propose that there is a middle ground. One that is money smart to pursue and keeps your studio current with the times. I have thought long and hard about this and discovered an amazing tool that creative type people tend to push aside. It is tried and true. 

It’s called a budget. Stick to it.

If you are reading this, I assume we are all in this for the long haul, and we want our studios to be successful, so be careful. Be vigilant to what is drying up your finances and what is replenishing them. Do you want this venture to be a side hobby or eventually pay to keep the lights on? If it’s the latter, I would suggest the following habits.

  2. Watch your bottom line.
  3. Don’t overspend your budget.
  4. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver.

But what do I spend money on first? When do I upgrade? These are all great questions, but if you begin to stress out over these questions constantly, it no longer becomes enjoyable. I like to say, spend money on your weakest point first.

Your system is only as good as your room is, so find the best sounding room in your house, and invest in acoustic treatment for that room. Odd shaped rooms, and rooms with as few parallel surfaces as possible work the best. Acoustic treatment may be the least glamorous of things to spend money on, but most likely the wisest. After treating the room, ask yourself what you want to focus on most: Tracking? Mixing? Mastering?

Each setup, or combination of setups will require different gear. Then finally, only upgrade once you have fully mastered and understood your gear so that when you run into its inherent limitations, you know if you need something else.

Anyone who is in this industry will tell you that it is not an overnight success and it may take years to start having your business be marginally successful. It may take years of having multiple jobs to make ends meet. A friend of mine produces songs during the day for artists that he believes has potential in the industry and then drives Uber cars from 9pm-2am, just to make ends meet. Music is hard work, but so rewarding in the end.

How crazy is it that we get to do what we love and potentially fail at it, but there are millions of people out there doing what they hate and failing at it.

Bottom line: if you keep your budget/gear collection under control you can have that much more of a chance at succeeding. There is nothing worse than buying another piece of gear just because a slick piece of marketing got to you when you can already produce the same results with the equipment you have.

Stay Curious.