How to Make Money Buying and Selling Musical Instruments

Buying and selling musical instruments is a great way to earn money in your spare time. You won’t get rich and you won’t be able to quit your day job but you’ll have a good time and earn a little cash too. The rules for a successful side business selling music equipment are:

  1. Know the value of everything. Know musical instruments, at least those in your niche, better than anyone. If you plan to buy and sell guitars, you should know not just the brand of a guitar by looking at it but what company made it, what year it was made, what it looked like when new, what it should sound like and, most importantly, what it is worth!
  2. Craigslist is your new best friend. Watch the Craigslist Musical Instruments page like a hawk, especially at odd hours. People post ads at all times, even early in the morning before they go to work and late at night before they go to bed. If you see something that you can resell for more, email or call right away. If you don’t get a response, leave your name, phone number and email address. Let the seller know that you want the item, have cash and can pick it up any time they want. Email or call every 10 minutes until you get an answer. You can always back out if it’s not as they described.
  3. Ebay isn’t a great place to score cheap gear to resell. Ebay is an efficient market where buyers and sellers have lots of time to research exactly how much an item should sell for. They can even see the top bids for recent sales of the same item. If you win, you have to have a large, heavy, fragile musical instrument shipped to you. And items for sale aren’t always as they seem.
  4. Auctions, estate sales, rummage sales and flea markets can be a mixed bag for the musical instrument entrepreneur. For every auction with a mint Vox amp and no competition, there’s a hundred with a beat-up practice amp being bid up by everyone and his brother. For every flea market with a granny-owned Gretsch there’s a hundred with a six month old Squier Strat that the seller is asking more for than it sold for when it was brand new.
  5. Make the buy easy on the seller. There’s competition for the deals so you have to be ready. Always be prepared with gas in your tank, lots of cash, a gps, and knowledge of what everything sells for. Answer your phone when someone returns your call and be prepared for an adventure.
  6. Don’t buy junk, or at least don’t pay much for it. Don’t end up with someone else’s problem that you won’t be able to sell. While that Fender bass might be for sale for half the market rate, it won’t be a profitable deal if the neck turns out to be warped and it’s actually only worth $100. Never buy any musical instrument without inspecting it carefully and considering what might be wrong and why it might not really be the deal it appears to be. And beware anything electronic if you can’t try it out.
  7. Always ask if anything else is for sale. The success or failure of those who make money buying and selling musical instruments hinges on being able to score deals on sweet gear. If you don’t have anything to sell, you can’t make money. If the seller has a Hammond organ, there’s a good chance they have the Leslie speaker and just haven’t gotten around to digging it out of the basement. And always bring extra cash.
  8. Find a good, cheap repair guy. Or learn to work on your own musical instruments. Unless you only buy the freshest gear, you’re going to need to learn to work on your own equipment if you want to make a profit. Although you probably shouldn’t buy instruments with serious problems, you’ll need to know how to restring a guitar, clean up a sax, or tune a piano.
  9. Master the art of the Craigslist ad. Chances are you’ll be selling instruments in the same place you bought them: Craigslist. In your ad title always include a detailed description including what it is (guitar), what brand (Gibson), what model (Les Paul) and condition (spectacular!). In your ad include a more detailed description with any issues, high points, how great it looks and sounds, the cult following it has, the famous musicians that played the same model, and great pictures. Don’t forget your email and phone number.
  10. Don’t be a spammer. If you’re selling 10 different instruments at all times, frequent Craigslist readers are going to tire quickly of your ads and flag you if you’re constantly reposting. Put your ads up once a week or so, and if something hasn’t sold after a while, drop the price or give it a rest.
  11. Respect your sellers and customers. Pay sellers a fair price. You don’t have to give sellers top dollar, but lowballing them down from a fair price or lying about what an instrument is worth will get you the bad karma you’ll deserve. Not to mention if you treat them right they might call you first when they remember that Vox Super Beatle in the attic.
  12. Don’t sell right after buying. No one wants to the see their vintage Korg posted on Craigslist the day after they sold it for triple what they got. Wait a month or two so you don’t insult people. Besides, isn’t part of the fun enjoying all the different instruments you’d ordinarily never get to own?

Left-Handed 1979 Fender Stratocaster