If I eat cheese sandwiches and ramen soup for the next week,
I can probably go hungry for just one day before the next paycheck.
Dont front and act like you dont know what its
like. For many DJs, scraping by is the cost of vinyl addiction
and equipment upgrades. And in the post dot-bomb wasteland of
maxed-out credit cards and pragmatic labor (if youre lucky
to find it), how can anyone afford the hip-hop lifestyle? Welcome
to the Hella Broke-Ass Style of DJing.
This first installment of "Thriftin for a Scratch"
focuses on the relationship between your values, time, money and
record buying. Future stories will focus on consumer advocacy
specific to DJs. Most of the suggestions below are common practices
borrowed from the conscientious consumer; ideals, which Ill
admit, may run counter to the DJs culture of must-have collectibles
and impulse buying. But, if youre reading this, youre
probably as fed up with mindless consumption as a sucka with his
ass cheeks sewn together. Ka-Plow!
Think Twice Before You Buy
While at the record shop, here are some things to consider before
you get to the register. At the end of each item is a suggested
action to further clarify your principles, wants and realities.
1) Is this record worth my hours of labor? If a
shop at the mall asked you to work a half-day stocking shelves
in exchange for just one break record, would you do it? Well,
in California, the average entry-level job pays $7.76 an hour
before taxes (according to a 2001 state labor report). If thats
you, then each new 12-inch record equals about an hour of your
labor. Up to three hours of your labor for just one battle record.
Add more labor hours if you pay with a credit card. At that pay
rate, a $1,000 credit balance would take an entire months
earnings of full-time labor to pay off and thats
ACTION: Calculate your per-hour wage after taxes and
find out exactly how much of your time is spent laboring for a
new 12-inch single or battle record. If you have a fat credit
balance due largely to DJing costs, calculate how many days of
full-time labor itll take to pay it off.
2) Can I find it used? Diggers know to hit the
used bins and $1 stacks at thrift shops. In a recent flip through
the used section at Amoeba Berkeley, I found near pristine copies
of the Beastie Boys License to Ill, Azeems excellent
Craft Classic, Aesop Rocks Labor Days and a reprint of Sly
Foxs "Lets Go All the Way" from 1986
all at a fraction of some of the unopened versions just one aisle
over. I passed on a few battle-break records I already had. Theyre
all not old thow-aways, either; some shops will sell promos of
brand spankin new releases at discount prices. Places to
look: used record stores, swap meets, garage sales, used bookstores
and rummage yards.
ACTION: Get to know the small and independent new and
used record shops in your town. Create a list of retailers and
make a point of checking them out.
3) Do I really need this record? Theres a
saying in marketing: "People dont know what they want,
until you show it to them." Sales floors, vinyl shops included,
are designed to exploit impulsive behavior. If you didnt
need that record before you got to the record store, then why
alluvasudden is it something you cant live without?
ACTION: Commit to staying within your record-buying budget.
If over budget, place selected records in order of most need and
use. Put back those records that make up the rear of your stack.
4) Do I support this artists values and record label?
Yes, you can contribute to hip-hop by refusing to purchase certain
records and by supporting artists and labels making a difference
in the culture. Hell, if you worked hard for your scrilla, then
why give it to a no-skill, wack bastard whos living in the
Hamptons? In these hard times, independent labels often
the only outlet for underground artists like yourself are
falling like wads of cash in a jiggy video.
ACTION: Support your local hip-hop scene by buying locally
produced records and CDs.
5) Do I have the storage space? As much as you
own your records, your records also own you. Anyone with a moderate
vinyl collection will tell you that proper record storage is a
constant life issue. Finding living space thats large enough
and safe to support a growing collection often means more labor
hours going to higher rent, mortgage or a storage facility. Or
living at yer mommas house forever.
ACTION: Make space. Go through a section of your records
and donate or sell those you dont need. Developing a normal
donate/sell schedule will also help keep your records in order.
6) Can I get the same use via Internet download?
For example, non-scratching beat makers: The downsides of vinyl
are higher costs, loss of sound quality and quirky storage. If
all you need is a sample that doesnt need to be scratched,
might as well download a clean version off the Internet.
ACTION: For music saved on computer or CD, invest in or download
a wave-editing and/or MIDI sequencing software program. Conceivably,
you can create an Endtroducing without ever leaving your home
or paying anything more than the electricity bill.
7) Is my money/labor/time better used for something else?
Whats a better feeling: financial freedom or worrying weather
that check you wrote for pizza delivery is gonna bounce?
ACTION: Flip through a few crates of records at home and
pull out the ones youve played only once and those you likely
wont play again. Be honest with yourself and your role(s)
as hobbyist, party-rocker, producer, battle DJ or whatever. When
youre done, consider how much of your money/labor was spent
for those records. Could it have been better spent elsewhere?
If so, in what ways?
Okay, enough introspection for the day. Do whatever suggested
actions you feel comfortable with and check back here occasionally
for additional tips on how to save money. We all love vinyl. And
theres always better ways of getting it. The Hella Broke-Ass
Style of DJing is not dogma; just awareness of ones purchasing
power and how it can be used to better oneself and the hip-hop
Send your suggestions, hate mail, love letters
or interpretations of Kurtz "the horror" at the
end of Apocolypse Now to SoleHole@hip-hop.com.