Curing RGAS – How DJ’s can save $11,862

dj-gearHave you ever had your eye on that one special piece of DJ gear? You know the one I’m talking about. The one that’s going to make you the BEST DJ in the world! The one that’s going to make all your problems go away. You said you were done with new DJ gear, but this time it’s different. Just one last purchase and then you’ll be happy.

STOP, you’ve just been diagnosed with RGAS.

What is RGAS

Before you go make it rain, put your wallet away and let me tell you about RGAS.

I’ve got a confession to make, I’m a recovering gear addict.

I’ve been DJing for almost 6 years and in that time, I’ve spent over $11,000 on DJ gear, and that doesn’t even account for production related gear like synths, monitors, software, and sound cards.

Wanna know the scariest part?

Everything that I do as a DJ today could be done with the second controller I ever purchased, a VCI 100, and a simple 2 channel sound card. (Not that I’m saying go out and buy a VCI100, quite the opposite!)

If I really needed to, I could DJ strictly with a laptop. I might be a little slower but I could still rock a crowd and no one would notice.

So why am I sharing this with you?

My hope is to shed some light on how to save some money and time by sharing what has taken me 6 years, and a lot of money, to learn.

RGAS: Rapid Gear Acquisition Syndrome

Note: This is not a medical condition, don’t consult your doctor because there is no pill or quick fix (someone should make that).

First we need to define RGAS and what causes it. RGAS is exactly what it sounds like. It’s acquiring a lot of gear in rapid succession. This happens in cycles, like binge drinking or partying. You go all out and you tell yourself never again.

Time passes and you’re at it again, hopefully not both at the same time. Impaired judgement + gear purchasing = maxed out credit card. Sometimes you’re upgrading existing gear (whether this is necessary is subjective) or getting complimentary things like new DJ headphones, studio monitors, or additional midi controllers for more control.

pioneer-set-up

As most of you know, DJ gear isn’t cheap. This can result in acquiring a lot of expensive equipment and draining your bank account very quickly.

So what causes RGAS

There’s a lot of factors that play into it, but the main influences would come from:

  • novelty (“shiny new gear!“)
  • persuasive marketing (“take your DJing to the next level!“)and
  • the opinion of other DJ’s (“you’re not a real DJ unless you’re using ____.“)

Each one of these influences the RGAS cycle.

As gear comes out with new features, companies hit you with awesome performance video’s, showcasing how “easy” it is to be creative with their new product. Then a rapid increase in coverage (blogs, forums, video’s) creates a sense of urgency. You don’t want to be left behind, you need the newest gear too. It can feel like you aren’t a real DJ, or that you can’t improve as a DJ unless you have _____ product.

So now that we know a bit about RGAS let me tell you about my own personal RGAS experience and how to avoid it.

How to Avoid RGAS

Here is the gear that I’ve owned over the years, most of which I no longer own.

    • Hercules RMX – $300
    • Audio 8 DJ – $400
    • VCI-100 – $600
    • Traktor Kontrol S4 – $900
    • Korg Nanopad – $75
    • Traktor Kontrol X1 – $199
    • Korg KM-202 – $250
    • Rane TTM-56s – $800
    • Maschine MK1 – $699
    • Traktor Kontrol F1 (2) – $250
    • Traktor Kontrol Z2 – $800
    • Pioneer DJM 900 – $2,000
    • Pioneer CDJ 850 (2) – $900
    • Akai APC 40 – $300
    • Maschine Mikro MK1 – $350
    • Novation Dicers (2) – $125
    • Pioneer DJM T1 – $1,039
    • Pioneer DJM 909 w/Audio 4 DJ – $700

Total: $11,862

You might think to yourself, “Man I wish I had all that sweet gear.” Or that I make a lot of money as a DJ to afford all this.

The truth is, I’ve probably just started to see positive returns in the last 1-2 years. I would probably have significantly more money and even be a better DJ if I had stopped chasing new gear and really focused on what I already had.

So how can you avoid RGAS before it starts? I’d like to share some of my beliefs that I’ve experienced as a DJ and the beliefs that I’ve seen in others that influence RGAS.

Beliefs:

1) “Having all this gear would make me a better DJ”

There is no correlation between being a great DJ and having tons of gear. Work with what you have, don’t wait for new gear to fix or improve you. Having a lot of gear can actually result in being average at best, since each piece of gear requires time and practice to master. It can make you feel productive and professional but in most cases it’s a distraction from focusing on things that really matter.

Just remember, every time you invest money in new gear, you also have to invest time in learning how to use it. No equipment comes without a learning curve.

2) “Imagine all the possibilities with this gear”

Sure I could use all this gear in a set and it would look cool, but it adds a lot of complexity and wouldn’t allow for an efficient workflow. Always aim to simplify your setup as much as possible to the point where you don’t have to think about what you’re doing. Eliminate any redundancies and streamline where possible.

3) “I’ve been DJing for a while, but I need industry standard gear to be a real DJ”

Focus on fundamentals of DJing, not specific tools. Fundamentals carry over to other gear/tools/software. A carpenter could build the same house regardless of what hammer he’s using. Gear also doesn’t increase your ROI as a DJ. A club owner isn’t going to say, “because you’re using this equipment, i’m going to pay you an extra $100”.

Lastly do not, I repeat DO NOT let the opinion of other “real DJ’s” influence your gear choices or pick gear that “real DJ’s” use. The average person (your crowd) doesn’t care what gear you’re using. If there’s music coming out the speakers that’s all that matters.

4) “I need this gear for this feature”

DJ software provides a lot of flexibility and customization, especially Traktor. Perfect example: you don’t need to spend $700 on a Kontrol S4 to get flux mode. This can be mapped to a midi controller you already own, even to your computer keyboard.

5) “I want learn to DJ. I have $2,000, what should I buy?”

This drives me crazy. It is now easier and more affordable than ever to start learning to DJ, yet people insist on dropping their credit cards on huge gear purchases. This is unnecessary, instead you can start learning by using DJ software. Most companies offer demo’s for free that you can download.

Here’s a link for Traktor Pro 2.

6) “My Gear is holding me back, I’ve outgrown it”

Do you truly know your gear inside and out? Have you read the manual? Can you get people dancing? If you can’t get people dancing with your current gear, new gear isn’t going to fix that.

Final Thoughts

i-am-brucelee

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times” – Bruce Lee

All the gear in the world doesn’t make a great DJ and there is no magic device that will make a good DJ a great DJ.

Rather then looking for an external fix, embrace limitations and master what you have.

Qbert, the best scratch DJ in the world, has gotten to the point where he doesn’t even need a mixer anymore:

I’m not against buying gear. However i’m against buying gear that you don’t need or for the wrong reasons. Unfortunately we’re human and we’re incredibly crafty when it comes to justifying and rationalizing our reasons, to others and ourselves.

Before you get lost in the RGAS cycle, really be honest with yourself and ask if you really need it or if you’re buying it for external validation (“real DJ’s”).

If you think you really need it, see if you can try out the gear by borrowing it, renting it, or trying it out in a store nearby. No one would buy a car without test driving it first. If that’s not possible, read the manual. You should understand how it works before you even own it.

FINALLY if you’re just starting out, download some demo software and just start using it. Even better, download it and find some tutorials to help guide you along.

You’ve probably all heard this before but it’s worth repeating: “It’s not the tool (gear, controller, mixer software), it’s how you use it

11 comments

  1. indeed.

    it ain’t the gear, IT’S THE MUSIC.

    seriously, rocking a dance floor does not REQUIRE $6K worth of gear. it REQUIRES a great set of songs that the crowd will dance to! i don’t care whether we talking a backyard BBQ, a wedding or some fancy bottle service, private room club. all you need are the right songs that get them up and shakin’ their groove thang…

    • Completely agree. I think it’s easy to forgot that in this day and age where music is far more accessible and disposable. Back in the day a DJ would have been defined by the extent of their music collection. Now that anyone can acquire a massive music collection (legally or illegally) it can feel like just having music is not enough to be a “real DJ”, even though the music is what matters. Then people get caught in the trap of RGAS to “look the part” and to be more authentic than the next DJ.

      • I agree too, but the writer is a bit clueless…with that gear you can do so much more than with just a laptop…having all that in front of you makes everything accessible at the touch of a button, more like a live set than just a dj set…to do that with just a mouse, drop down menus and different tabs, sequencers that light up…knobs filters effects etc takes more time…what I agree with is that it’s definitely for show but that’s what people want to see, somebody clicking away on a laptop is much less pleasing to the eye than having all that gear! for all they know you could be playing tetris…a cool setup that works with club settings is Chris Liebing’s, not too expensive…he uses two laptops but you can only use one! sound-cards come pretty cheap these days too, but the maschine is expensive for what it is…

      • I think the writer gets it spot on with this. Whilst I understand the lack of appeal to DJ entirely from a laptop, the point I believe Ryan is making in the article, is that it CAN be done with just a laptop.😉

      • Hey Will, thanks for your comment. Gear can definitely enhance a DJ’s workflow and performance. There are somethings that just aren’t practical with a laptop such as scratching and precise knob/fader adjustments.

        The target audience I really had in mind for this article was beginners and people that constantly look for the next piece of gear, myself included. The point about being able to DJ with just a laptop isn’t that it’s superior to having gear. Just that it’s possible and it should be used as a starting point, rather than investing in expensive gear right off the bat.

        In regards to always looking for the next thing, this could be a whole other article about when to finally upgrade to or if you really need a new piece of gear. If you look through the gear list, you can see that I’ve owned 5 different mixers. I can remember thinking I need a mixer that I can scratch with or a higher quality mixer to be a better DJ. In reality I should have been practicing scratching more and practicing working with the eq’s.

        Chris Liebing is actually a great example of someone who has recognized that it’s better to start simple and master what they have (http://youtu.be/pohTY2x0J2Q?t=3m14s).

  2. I have a cure for RGAS.. It’s called struggle for 20 years getting crapped on by life and generally never being able to afford anything except being able to survive.. If after 20 years you have continued to educate yourself and still want to pursue DJing or any sort of music or art.. You will have a really solid understanding of what you need in order to be happy with what you would like to work with.. Right now.. After getting a Z2 as a wedding present.. The only thing I REALLY want is a pair of RP-8000’s and a proper set of cans.. Two turntables and a mixer are the core of a proper traditional setup.. I can see myself using just that for years into the future.. and maybe as I excel and progress further into the daily realities of the craft.. I might want to add a few things.. to keep it fresh.. But only after I master the heart of where the art began.

    • Hey Ezmyrelda, thank you for your comment. There could be a whole other post regarding the topic of “need”. Again as humans we are really creative when it comes to rationalizing our decisions. We are great at convincing ourselves that our wants are really needs: “I need a CDJ 2000.”

      I think it’s also really difficult for people just starting out to choose gear that fits their needs. If you’re just starting out, you don’t have the experience or knowledge to really define your needs.

      Mastery over equipment and when to upgrade would be another really interesting area to look at.

  3. I always wondered when someone would give it a name thanks Al. I spent from 1984 to 1997 with that condition. I was in remission after that until i had a relapse in 2012. I’m back on the wagon after a couple of years of heavy spending.

    Great article, most mixing even these days is just two channels. When I started upgrades were actually worth it. i.e. started with a battery powered mixer with no eq or crossfader. Turntables with belt drive and no pitch control to 1210’s. Now the gap has closed up.

    Always about the music and not the gear🙂

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