Many musicians and audio engineers make a hobby of collecting and trading any music gear they can find. A Facebook group called “Mid Michigan Musical Instruments Buy Sell or Trade” has close to 2,000 members and endless deals are made almost daily on used equipment across Mid-Michigan.
Yesterday it all came to life at the 2016 Musical Instrument Swap Meet, bringing buyers, sellers and traders from East Lansing and across Mid-Michigan to The Whiskey Barrel Saloon on Clippert Street. Individuals and local businesses arrived with heaps of gear ranging from vintage or custom-built guitars to recording studio equipment, amplifiers, custom-built drum kits, accessories, and everything in between.
“This is just a fraction of what we have. We couldn’t bring it all,” says Scott Sundberg, who shared a booth with his friend Jimmy Shellberg. Most of what they had for sale was vintage recording equipment, some of which Shellberg says was found by a friend at local garage sales. Though the equipment is dated, it retains value among audio engineers even up against the most state-of-the-art digital recording techniques.
Shellberg says that although he does some digital recording, “the analog stuff is awesome. You can get [analog equipment] for such a great deal. I think it’s coming back, though. Even just five years ago it was dead, and now I think the younger crowd is starting to realize, hey, this digital stuff sounds cool, but, it’s not as fun recording on a computer.”
Sundberg and Shellberg both own studios and are always on the lookout for new gear. Shellberg reportedly accumulated his share of the booth, which took up at least two tables, in only a few months. “I’m always looking to upgrade.”
Larry Alan, a local who works at the Guitar Center in the Frandor Shopping Center, says he’s been tinkering with electronics and building guitar effects pedals for himself since his high school years. Since then he has branded his craft as Larry Alan Guitars, and sells custom effects pedals and guitars that he makes from scratch.
“Most of these are one-off pedals. There might not ever be another one, or if there is, it might not be exactly the same as that one.” He set up an electric guitar (that he built) with an amplifier at his booth that ran through some of his most recently built pedals for potential buyers to demo.
Other than this particular swap meet and similar events in the local area, Larry Alan Guitars makes most of its sales through word of mouth. Since the pedals are handmade, most of the sales are special orders. When asked about how he makes his product more accessible to local musicians, Larry Alan says that “there are a lot of people milling around here that I’ve met through Guitar Center, other events like this, or going out to bars and going out to shows. You just get to meet people through word of mouth. If someone buys a pedal and they enjoy it, they’ll tell a friend about it.”