Do you suffer from gear lust? Many recording musicians do. I happen to have a particularly severe case. For example, I have lately found myself scrolling through the 500 Series category at Reverb.com and eBay, fantasizing about filling my rack with SSL, Neve and API preamps.
I’ve lusted after a lot of gear in my time, including outboard processors, microphones, software and instruments. Based on what is essentially a lifetime of experience, going back to consumer audio devices as a child, I’ve identified seven distinct phases of gear lust.
Phase 1: The Discovery. It’s when you find a piece of gear or software that you’re intrigued by. You go on websites, see it being used by someone or read about it in Mix or elsewhere.
Phase 2: The Drooling. Once you’re focused on a particular product, it’s kind of like being in love. You walk around all day and night thinking of that product you just have to have. You know that once you have it in your studio, your productions will instantly sound infinitely better. You look longingly at images of it and imagine the paradise that awaits you.
Phase 3: The Rationalization. The more expensive the gear, the more you’ll have to justify to yourself the decision to buy it. This is particularly true if you have to go into debt to make the purchase. You find yourself assuaging the prudent part of your brain with promises that you’ll pay it off in monthly installments and that you’ll sell off some of your older gear to help defray the cost. “This time, I really will,” you tell yourself, but you know deep down that you probably won’t.
Phase 4: The Purchase. Once you’ve sufficiently convinced yourself that this product is indispensable to your music career and ultimate success, you go to the website to order it and nervously click on the “buy” button to put it in your shopping cart. You fill out the payment information and then you face the most critical decision: Should you hit the “submit order” button?
You’re aware that once you do, there’s no going back, and so you hesitate. Your cursor is hovering over that button, and you have thoughts like, “Should I really do this?” “I shouldn’t spend the money but it’s so freakin’ cool.” “What if my spouse sees the credit card bill?” Then you say, “F- – k it,” and you click the button.
If you’re buying the product from a brick-and-mortar store, you go through a related process where you pace around the aisles, getting your nerve up before you go through with the purchase.
Phase 5: The Anticipation. If you’re buying software that you can download immediately, or if you’re purchasing the product from a store, you can skip right to Phase 6. Otherwise, you must endure the agony of waiting to receive the object of your desire. During this phase, the longing and the madness reach their zenith.
You find yourself checking the tracking number 10 times a day, hoping that it will arrive earlier than scheduled. Alas, that never happens. But sometimes you get the dreaded “delivery exception” message from UPS or FedEx notifying you that your precious product has been delayed or, God forbid, lost.
Phase 6: Ripping It Out of the Box. The package has finally arrived, and you have to restrain yourself from literally tearing the box open, so strong is your desire. Once you’ve removed it from its packaging, you install it in your studio as quickly as possible, and you’re ready for the final phase.
Phase 7: The Anti-Climax. When you first try out the product, a letdown is inevitable. Most of the time, that’s not because it isn’t a quality product. It’s just that nothing can live up to the hyperbolic expectations your mind has conjured up for it. At this point, it frequently dawns on you that you’ve wasted a lot of time obsessing over a piece of gear when you could have spent it writing or producing music.
But in a week or two, your concerns begin to fade. You discover another product you absolutely must have, and you’re back to Phase 1.