Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Price of Used Gear

Today's topic is a rather depressing one. You buy a new piece of gear and the first day it's already plummeting toward worthlessness. Depreciation, in short, is a bitch. My own woes stem from building up close to $100,000 worth of audio gear and finding myself lucky to sell it off for 20% of what I paid. 

Now it's a rare item that actually gains value over time. The odd classic bit of gear, a particularly good sports car, high end watches. Most of it runs a pretty similar life cycle to a car. Most gear looses 20% to 30% of its value in the first year. After that it tapers off a bit until it's worth about 20% of cost.

Where this is really felt is when there's a paradigm shift in the industry. When the majority of folks adopt new technology and it's only a small old guard that's still interested in doing things the old fashioned way, it really becomes a buyer's market. In my case, I bought a mid sized analog console in 2006, right before digital found its way down to the masses. Now in 2013 even though it's still very clean and functioning perfectly, I'll be lucky if I can get 25% of what I paid for it. Probably less.

That's not to say that some things won't become hot items again in a few decades when they become "vintage". I just don't have time to wait around to recoup my investment. I need to go digital too and I can't count on selling off my old stuff to help me do it. 

Even if you pay very close attention to trends it can still be pretty difficult to tell what's going to sweep the industry and what's just a fad. But no matter what the current state of things it's always a good idea to keep turning over your gear in mind. This isn't so much an issue for the studio guys but for the live guys who's stuff is out there taking a beating it's much better to sell it while it's still got some miles left in it than to hang on to it until you can't get anything for it.

1 comment:

  1. I've had this very problem recently. I bought a Presonus 16.4.2 when it came out, and now I got my new desk. NO ONE I knew wanted to buy the old board, because there's all this new and exciting gear coming out - and while I was considering selling it off to someone I didnt know (bay), the price for the thing new dropped significantly. Now I dont wanna sell it at all, because it would just hurt. Even if it'll be of some benefit for me, taxwise. So I'm sort of hanging on to it as a (pretty luxurious!) backup/barg gig mixer. What's really kinda weird though is the fact that NONE of the digital gear in existance now is gonna be vintage at any point in the future. This whole business is in transition. Who will yearn for an LS9 5,10,30 years down the road? And even if you consider NICE consoles instead. They won't be around. Nobody will miss them, either. The same goes for plugins, of course. Yeah, they don't degrade with time. But they won't work 20 years from now, either. Or will they? And how is this a problem? Maybe it's not, but I find myself not getting too attached to any one piece of gear (or software), which has me feeling strangely emotionally detached sometimes. Wow, that was a trip down awkward digression highway. I hope you somehow feel what I mean though. :)

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