Frequently upgrading your gear—via Craigslist—is every musician's right of passage, because, hey, we all know better gear writes better songs. But be prepared: these are the sorts of people you'll meet time and again.
"Just writing my next coldwave jam, don't mind me."
There’s no doubt that Craigslist encapsulates a plethora of ways to meet weird, random strangers who will enrich your life. I mean, look at the categories. “Childcare.” “Haiku.” “System Status.” “Sales Biz Dev.” I don’t even know what most of those words mean, but I’ll bet a dollar and this piece of belly button lint that you won’t find a more mötley crüe than in the “Music Instr” section of the vast black hole that is the list of Craig.
The land of “Music Instr” on Craigslist is a sad, mysterious place. Of course every once in a while you'll get the chance to buy a vintage synth from Chris Coady (thanks Chris!), or sell an old Boss PS-3 pedal to that one guy in Battles (no, not the one that quit and not the hysterical drummer, the other one. You know who I'm talking about). But mostly it's a land full of lonely, middle-aged men living out their dreams through an anonymous website and eight poorly lit photos of a Peavey bass guitar that was originally purchased in 1986 for $279.99 plus tax.
Here in New York, it’s rare that you’ll meet someone who hasn’t dipped their toes into the Craigslist pool at least once in their “career”, and many, myself included, embarrassingly, use it on a semi-regular basis. The “Music Instr” classified are infamous, like that one venue that everyone has played at least once with the really grumpy sound guy who makes everyone sound like they are playing through a wall of blankets on purpose because, hey, his band was way fucking better than you kids and they almost opened for Nirvana right after Bleach came out but then their bassist Joe broke his foot in a motorcycle accident and the singer went off to Arizona and never came back, so FUCK YOU, I'm not turning your vocals up any more in the monitors!
Of course there are practical reasons for using the “Music Instr” classifieds. Upgrading your gear constantly (we all know better gear writes better songs), meeting other musicians in the “community” (I don’t think anyone knows what that word means, frankly), and then, of course, buying stuff from that clueless guy down in Sunset Park and reselling it for a cool $42 profit. Coffee money for weeks! True story: I once bought a synth from a guy who said he was sick of it and I then proceeded to sell it back to the same guy for $200 bucks profit. Thanks for letting me borrow your synth, that’ll be 200 American, and no, I won't take a check from you. You live off the Graham stop, cash only, my friend.
However, just like any voyage there are interesting characters along the way if you just know where to look. Here are some of the folks you'll encounter on your journey:
THE MARRIED GUY
He’s only selling his 1968 Fender Vibrolux because his wife Carol wants it GONE BY THE END OF THE WEEK. And you know, he loves his wife more than that sweet tube wonder, even though the tremolo is world-renowned. They’ve been together for a while now, you know? These are usually the same guys who insist “NO EMAILS OR TEXTS, PHONE CALLS ONLY.” Yes, I really want to call up a grumpy middle-aged Brooklynite and discuss the condition of his guitar amp. Sometimes I’ll do it anyway, like when I’m lonely because no one is answering my gchats. These dudes are always good for an extended convo about politics or the Mets or Carol's cooking. Sorry I never ended up coming by to check out your amp, Steve, hope your shoulder is feeling better.
THE CONFUSED BEATMAKER
We all love Timbaland but we can’t all BE Timbaland. Some dudes find this out the hard way when they plug in their newly-purchased Maschine from Best Buy, or even worse, a buddy’s MPC and they find out it doesn’t just make beats with the push of a button. Fer real? Damn, I thought I could make beats with this, but really I gotta take the time to learn it and shit? Nah, gonna sell this one off.
THE POOR HIPSTER SELLING HIS MICROKORG FOR THE SIXTH TIME
I’ve seen this guy in so many incarnations that I can predict what he’s gonna say before he opens the door. “Yeah, dude, rent’s been killing me recently, gotta let something go. The presets are alright, I really like the arpeggiator and the vocoder is pretty dope.” Hi, yes, I’ve used a microKORG. I came here from two stops away, I live in Brooklyn, look at my shoes, do I need to keep giving you reasons?
THE ANGRY GIRLFRIEND TAKING REVENGE
Uh-oh, buddy. Like, major fuck-up. Shoulda covered your tracks better, because guess what, she’s mad. And she knows what you truly love. That sunburst Les Paul that you’ve got your hands on more than her. And she doesn’t care that you upgraded the pickups and change the strings on a weekly basis. She’s posted it with a picture of her nails gripping the neck and because to her, a guitar is a guitar, all she needs is enough to cover that Gucci purse she bought herself 20 seconds ago. One hundred fifty bucks and she’s already gotten ten emails, dammmmnnnn.
"Honey, I'll be in the basement!"
RETIRED GUY WHO STUMBLED ACROSS SOME STUFF IN HIS BASEMENT
These guys are actually pretty adorable. TBH, they don’t really understand Craigslist. They don’t leave emails or phone numbers, they somehow manage to screw up the html code of their post, and they don’t necessarily know what they have, although they know they have something (“It says Gibson on it, it's either a mandolin or a harpsichord”). I like these guys too because they usually have good stories about pre-gentrification New York and you can buy their vintage gear for peanuts. Literally peanuts sometimes. I always carry a bag of peanuts with me for this very reason.
Good luck out there, hope to meet some of you on my journeys. Also, don’t forget to try before you buy—there are a lot of swindlers out there.
Leo knows about gear. He's on Twitter - @LeoMaymind.