If you want to get a reasonable price for your instrument or gear, then don’t just throw up some grainy photos on Craigslist, mention the guitar has six strings, and call it a day. Proper preparation can help you wring another few hundred dollars out of a good piece of gear without requiring much additional time. Consider these five steps:
Sell Your Music Equipment and Instruments (The Right Way)
If you want to sell your gear and get it right, here's what you'll need to know.
There’s a well-known disease that affects members of the music community. Devastating to the wallet and completely incurable, “Gear-itis” is the musician & studio owner’s compulsion to continue buying more and better music making gear.
If you’ve ever bought a new guitar, even though you have a perfectly good one already; if you’ve ever gone on a sample buying spree; if you’ve ever looked at your monthly budget, vowed to cut back, and then bought a new plugin — congratulations. You’re one of us.
But there’s a way to combat the effects of the disease. Musical equipment holds its value surprisingly well, and there are thousands of buyers searching for used gear every day on platforms like Ebay and Craigslist.
Selling musical equipment can be both lucrative and satisfying. Whether you’re looking to sell music equipment you’ve outgrown or liquidate instruments that have been collecting dust in your home, you can allow someone else to enjoy them while also making some extra money. You’ll also free up space in your home or practice studio.
It’s easy to lose out on dollars when you sell music equipment, so we’ve put together a handy guide to help you prepare for and effectively sell your musical gear for a fair price.
Step 1: Prep Work
1. Do Your Homework
Start by locating the purchase price for your equipment. If you’ve got the receipt filed away, that’s perfect; if not, do some Internet searches to determine what the price of the item was when you bought it, or how much similar items would cost.
2. Find Out the Going Rate
Next, check out what people are asking for and receiving for your equipment on sites like Craigslist and Ebay. Keep in mind the condition of your equipment and make sure you’re looking at the going prices for items in similar condition.
This step will help you understand a ballpark estimate of what the equipment is worth in its current condition — and it’ll tell you what you stand to earn if you improve the condition of the item. You may find out that $20 in repairs can fetch you a selling price that’s higher by $200. Or, you may decide that it’s simply not worth selling your equipment, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and effort.
3. Clean & Repair
Before taking any photos or writing up a listing, it’s time to clean the instrument and make any necessary repairs. A minimal time & monetary investment can go a long way to bring the item back to a like-new condition, or at least get some appealing photos. In a half hour, you could give your guitar a new set of strings, polish off the dust, clean the fretboard, and buff out minor scratches from the body.
The instrument will shine in photographs, instead of looking old and dirty.
Weigh your decisions in terms of the best investment of your time, energy, and money. The easiest heuristic for measuring investments into your equipment is to ballpark estimate how much additional cash you can earn by making the improvement. By cleaning a stain, you might stand to make another $50. But you might also spend four hours trying to grease your tuners only to find it makes no difference at all. You are the best judge of effort in these cases.
4. Take Quality Photos
Photography is the key to selling online. Bad photos will stomp on any chance you had to get a good price for your equipment; good photos can amplify the purchase price tremendously. The product photography guide provided free by Ebay offers excellent tips for photographing your equipment before listing it for sale.
Some of the best tips include:
- Use a plain backdrop, like a white wall
- Use a camera tripod, if possible.
- Don’t use flash. Use diffused, natural lighting if possible.
- Take full-size shots and close-ups of important details.
- Use high-resolution camera settings; you can always compress photos later with standard software.
A final tip: include any flaws in the equipment in the photos. Don’t deceive buyers, either by misleading them or by forgetting to include problems with the equipment in the listing and photos.
5. Prepare to List
Before you list your equipment, make notes covering what you want to say about the piece and what sites require you to mention in your listing. Most relevant listings will include price, contact information, equipment condition, and a link to the manufacturer’s site so buyers can learn more about the equipment.
When creating your listing, here are a couple more things to remember:
Understand that most musical instruments have consistent features within each type – however, there will also be unique and personal elements about each piece. There’s no point in dwelling too much on the basics that your instrument shares with all others. Talk a little bit about its features and condition, then move on to describe what’s really interesting and personal about it:
Is it the uniquely beautiful finish or wood designs? Is it the warm, fuzzy analog sound? is it the expensive locking tuners that you wouldn’t find on a basic instrument? Describing what sets an instrument apart is one of the keys to success in the quest to sell music equipment.
Musical instruments can be deeply personal to the owner. If you felt a connection with a piece and have any personal or special stories to share about the instrument, why not include it in the description? Tell the story about the time you played this guitar for 400 people at an impromptu performance at a wedding two hundred miles from home, or talk about how you played this guitar when you first met your future spouse.
Genuine passion and emotion has a far stronger effect than just dry facts and statistics. It can also help to drive a faster sale at a higher price.
Step 2: Where to Sell Musical Instruments & Equipment
The Internet has opened a whole new world of possibilities for connecting with buyers for your musical instruments and equipment. While each platform will have slightly different parameters and requirements, if you do your prep work thoroughly you should be well prepared to sell on any platform. You’ll understand what price is acceptable and most likely to lead to an efficient, successful sale. Here’s where to sell musical instruments:
Online Classics – and Some New Options
There are a number of online venues to visit when deciding where to sell musical instruments and equipment:
Ebay.com is a trusted platform for selling music equipment. While it does cost money to list and sell on eBay, you’ll open yourself up to a worldwide audience, increasing your odds of making a sale. They offer an excellent comprehensive guide full of tips and ideas for the successful sale of just about any type of musical instrument or equipment.
Craigslist.com is another trusted online platform where you can sell music equipment, and there’s a site for every major city and area in the U.S. Best of all, it is totally free to list items for sale on Craigslist, so you can do so at no financial risk. Around 150,000 musical instruments are bought and sold on Craigslist each day, and it offers an excellent opportunity for selling locally, if that is your preference. You may also keep re-listing the item for free until it sells.
3. Trading Post Sites
Sites like Reverb.com and Sweetwater.com are dedicated to the buying and selling of instruments and musical equipment. What sets trading post sites apart from Craigslist and eBay is that they are dedicated to the niche of music equipment only, so it’s a very focused platform. The audience will be mainly musicians who know their stuff, which can in some cases help to expedite the sale.
4. Going Mobile: Mobile Apps that Can Help You Sell Locally
Everyone seems to be “going mobile” with their technology these days, and this option is now available to facilitate the sale of music equipment as well. Smartphone and tablet apps can help you to sell music equipment even while on the go.
The 5miles App and Close5 App (owned by eBay) are new hyperlocal apps that can connect you with people interested in buying music gear in your area. You can also designate distance limits such as 1 mile away, 5 miles away, etc. All communication is done through texting within the app and it allows buyers to see photos immediately on their mobile device. These apps just may be the next generation of Craigslist.
5. Brick-and-Mortar Musical Instrument Stores
At one time, physical music stores were a primary way to sell musical instruments, and they are still an option today. Businesses like Guitar Center and Sam Ash allow you to just walk in, get your musical instrument valued, and make a sale.
However, music equipment sellers should be careful because these stores are notorious for offering extremely low prices for used music equipment. While this is the lowest-hassle route and you won’t have to bother with taking photos, writing a description and listing an ad, you will likely make the least amount of money on the sale.
A local, privately owned music shop might be a better option and net you a better price for your equipment. If you go this route, make sure you do basic research and prep work so that you understand the value of your instrument before heading into a store. Don’t just go in and accept any offer blindly!
Selling music equipment takes time, effort and in some cases a small financial investment, but the rewards can be extremely satisfying. In addition to giving your prized music equipment a brand new home and an appreciative new owner, you also get the opportunity to free up space and earn some cash. Use these tips and ideas for making the selling experience a positive and successful one.