Dude, Where’s My Gear?

Don't fall victim to emotional decisions and gear purchases without doing your homework.

By M. Erik Matlock September 26, 2016

Image courtesy of James Robertson

As I waited patiently through dozens of random items donated for a local auction, the moment finally came… A box of microphones donated from a local music store.

The previous hour or so had been nerve-wracking. I didn’t dare leave my seat for fear that the mostly unorganized charity fund-raiser crew would decide to pull it up when I wasn’t looking.

“Here we have a mixed box of microphones and cables. Let’s start the bidding at five dollars,” the auctioneer finally said.

Boom. First bid. I knew they would be mine.

This was not my first desperate excitable moment as a gear junkie. Most of my life had been wrapped around the pursuit of various toys for making noise. This was just my first shot at competing with other potential gear mongers.

One of us was about to score more than a dozen microphones and cables.

After a few seconds, someone else threw in a bid. Crap!

It turned out that it was the owner of a small dance studio, who needed a few mics for making announcements at her dance recitals.

When nobody else flinched, I bid again. And so did she.

Now, understand this. I have been notorious for being the guy who worked himself into the ground in support of whatever ministry or job I had committed to. When my family supports something, it is not a casual involvement. We pride ourselves on generosity and performance.

Just not this time.

With limited cash on hand, and more goodies still sitting on that stage, I made a predictable, gear-fiend decision. Forget whatever charity this is supporting, I need those microphones.

So, in complete disregard for protocol or even basic dignity, I stood up and went over to the dance instructor. Yes, during the bidding. Leaning in, I asked her how many of them she needed. She only wanted two, so I offered a quick suggestion. I whispered to her that nobody else wanted them. Stop bidding and I would give them to her.

Success. I won the box for about twenty-five bucks.

When I retrieved my prize, which I never actually got to inspect before the auction began, I found about fifteen bucks worth of microphones. They were junk. Stuff that had been cleaned out of storage, or never sold. Most of them had cables attached and plastic bodies. The most valuable one in the entire box had Radio Shack stamped on it.

And, for the record, I still have that one. Only that one.

Obviously, I learned from that experience. Never again would I let my emotions get the best of me and create an irrational tsunami in my brain, desperately pushing me into another gear purchase without doing appropriate research.

Yeah. Right.

Used car salesmen have several common tricks that magically make pens levitate over contracts and suck money from our pockets. The head nodding, getting us in the routine of answering “yes” to a long series of questions. The affirmation that we deserve a fine vehicle. The less than rational decision that a used 1982 Hyundai is the perfect car for our present needs. And so on…

The goal is to get us beyond the point of logic and make it purely emotional. They create a connection with the car and provoke us to consider something that is rarely the best choice. So we throw money at something based on emotion.

Gear junkies do it every day, at least in our minds.

Over the years, I repeated similar maneuvers over and over. I spent hard-earned cash, signed loans, and haggled trades for mountains of gear that has all vanished from my life. Either through wear, upgrades, theft, or the final surrender… Selling it off to pay bills that said gear was supposed to support… It’s all gone.

The last of it went away to pay for moving out of a dead end town and cover moving expenses. I basically traded an entire studio for the freedom to start over somewhere else.

In my mind, all that money spent on toys over the course of twenty years was supposed to produce income and lead to the good life and bragging rights. It accomplished neither. It was a wild ride that took me around the world and taught me, the hard way, what the difference is between a hobby and a career.

Hobbies are things we do because we enjoy them. Careers pay bills and hopefully end up in a comfortable retirement. Yeah. Now I know. It was fun, but didn’t get me the endgame I had hoped for.

Don’t fall victim to emotional decisions and gear purchases without doing your homework. Buy good equipment that is appropriate for your long-term goals. Know the career vs hobby thing and get your wife or business partner involved in your plans. Don’t get sucked into the trap of buying junk or anything that doesn’t get you to your intended results.

Now, anyone want to make me an offer on a rare, vintage, one-of-a-kind Radio Shack microphone? It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity…

Senior editor .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) has worked in professional audio for more than 20 years in live, install, and recording. Read more of his random rants and tirades here.

About M. Erik

M. Erik Matlock
M. Erik Matlock

Senior Editor, ProSoundWeb
Erik worked in a wide range of roles in pro audio for more than 20 years in a dynamic career that encompasses system design and engineering in the live, install and recording markets. He also spent several years as a production staff member and team leader for the largest non-denominational church in central Georgia, and served as an author for several leading industry publications before joining the PSW team.


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