The price of a guilty conscience.

Have you ever bought a piece of gear or software you really didn’t need? Of course you did. Did you ever feel bad after you bought it? Did you ever feel bad before you even hit the buy now button? You knew you didn’t need it but you still went ahead. I’m guilty as charged and I know you are too.

As musicians we should be the most frugal group no? After all ASCAP isn’t much of a union in the way the Screen Actors Guild is right? We are left to fend for ourselves. No 401k plans, medical insurance or even social security. We have do put it all away by ourselves.

“My arms do things oblivious to my wishes and my orders. Buy. Buy. Buy more now!” – Soft Cell, Persuasion.

Large companies feed us adverts pandering to our wish to make great songs. However, it’s almost never the gear that’s going to make that happen. Piano lessons maybe but a new audio interface or filter plug-in… no. If you want to see gear lust in extreme effect look to the forums at Gearslutz. Threads go on miles long with people chatting about stuff they can never afford. I swear I feel dirty reading about which $1200 pre-amp sounds the best (Great River by the way!).

In truth it feels great to give in and be dirty; to purchase something I don’t really need. To open the cardboard box, remove the shiny inner plastic bags and smell new plastic and silicone. You can almost see drool in my Vermona DRM1 unboxing video. Should I be hard on myself? As an American I was raised to be a consumer. Is it my fault I have these feelings?

I’ve done well in the music business but the price of life has increased by a third in just the past 48 months. No one is paying me a third more. It’s time to put down the credit card right? Yet if I had the new Oscitron my new song could be a hit and then…

photo credit: Keegan Jones

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Oliver Chesler

"Hello my name is Oliver and I'm going to tell you a story." I have been recording music since 1989 under the name The Horrorist. I have released over 60 singles and 4 full length albums. To hear my music please go to:

11 thoughts on “The price of a guilty conscience.”

  1. It’s tough to be a musician in general. Last night I was hired as a temp bass player for a place in San Jose dealing with blues. This was a warmup band. They promised the artist $100 and at the end they gave him $30 for the effort. Now, I don’t play for money (been doing over 100 acts this year with no payment) so I don’t mind, but I saw the disappointment in the eyes of the other musicians — didn’t even cover their gas prices.

    I suspect that blues place will have karaoke next month… It’s even cheaper.

  2. I need a DRM so bad, yet I have VST that can make good blipiness too.
    I want a DRM with the new Future Retro XS and an Acidlab bassline on acidline duty.
    A Muse Receptor and a RME audio interface, and a discontinued Joemeek channelstrip, the ones where Ted Fletcher owned Jomeek not the new guy.

  3. Of course you don´t need every fucking drummachine today, there is much better software that can do this job.
    Why do people still buy a MPC? Today your setup could be NI Battery with LIVE or FL-Studio as a sequencer.
    BUT: big boys need big toys;)
    2 weeks ago i bought an akai S-950. Sure i don´t really need it. But it´s just inspiring to look at this machine.
    My next hardware-stuff will be a “Roland alpha juno 2”
    I want exactly have that 90´s HC-sound of my youth idols (like “dj skinhead” for example^^), i want to get that spirit. and if anybody is honest:hardware is much more sexier than software;)

    1. because an MPC is not just a piece of gear – it’s an instrument, a world in itself. Not an MPC 500 though – that’s just a waste of money…

  4. yeh I have to admit, I have just bought a TR-707, as I’ve always liked the look of them (and emm maybe cos theres NO WAY I can afford a 909 ;) ) – but I definitely dont ‘need’ it, Goldbaby Tape909 and 808 refills sound brilliant IMO. Max vio nice choice – I would really like to get an Alpha Juno 2 someday – proper hoovers :)

    emm to get back to point, yeh we do spend a lot of unecessary money on shit we dont need…

  5. having said that, I would be a very happy man if i had an 808, a 909 and 2 303’s lol :)

    maybe I wouldnt though because Im sure then once id brought so much ‘out of the box’, id be fussing over getting all the proper hardware compressors, distortions and reverb units, which is another insurmountable hill.

  6. I think we need to gradually shift from being just consumers to the “use only what you need” philosophy. Consuming everything we can is part of what is bringing the world to its knees.

    Musicians should know better because they are crreators, not only consumers. And music comes primarly from people, not machines (this is mostly true today still).

    So, if you really, and I mean, really, need a piece of gear, well, go ahead and buy it if you can. But hen knowing about our true needs is not easy. we need to train ourselves, and this training is part of the “know yourself” and self-discovery disciplines..

    I think on the end one feels better at doing the right thing.

  7. I agree that it can certainly turn into an endless persuit for this piece of vintage gear or , the newest synth etc. However I think like most things in life a happy medium is best! I produce hard trance/hardstyle music and therefore I deemed a couple of tools justified to be bought. I got an access virus indigo 2 and a tb 303 , yes i paid stupid money for the 303 (but it will hopefully gain value as they seem to go up a few hundred a year)! Thing is after loading up my pc with rebirth and abl and other soft synths I just found it so uninspiring after a while. It’s like the difference between playing a snowboarding game or actually going snowboarding in real life.

    Now I really dig into the heart of the machines to pull out the sound I want and it’s just so much more satisfying to be pushing buttons on a real tb, or virus . It makes u feel like a musician rather than just another bedroom wannabe tweaking a mouse! that said I know that software is sooo capable these days but I always said I would limit myself to a few pieces of select hardware and integrate that into a predominantly software setup. I think that is the beauty of the times we live in , forget the hardware vs software debate . Hardware and software side by side is just a beautiful thing and between the 2 theres nothing you can’t accomplish!

    No matter what buying decisions u make I would say the main thing is don’t forget the point. Ur making music not building a synth museum. As long as your getting it done then that’s the main thing. It’s not about what u NEED, I’m sure JK doesnt NEED 44 ferraris but he has them and thats that.

  8. Up till recently, what I “wanted” was always some sort of unit. Not anymore. Now all I’d want is a way to access those interactive patterns they put on newer gear (the “Karma patterns” of new Korgs, the “arpeggios” of Yamaha XS line, etc. etc.)… only the patterns, I don’t care much for the rest of the box.

    So since sampling the sounds of older gear is commonplace now, one wonders… perhaps it’s time to find a way to extract these cool sequences too? :-)

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