Gear collections as part of the extended self: Individual attributions to musical instruments and equipment, and their social relevance

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


This paper presents results from a comprehensive research project on the so-called ‘Gear Acquisition Syndrome’ (GAS), commonly understood as the musicians’ enduring urge to buy and own instruments and equipment as an anticipated catalyst of creative energy and bringer of happiness.

Drawing on a multitude of theories from consumption, collecting and leisure studies, as well as original empirical research (including interviews, survey, netnography), the project found strong evidence that musicians perceive their rig as part of their extended self. For these musicians, instruments are more than just tools for making music. The findings suggest that players form relationships with their instruments, to which they attribute human qualities over time. The fact that instruments are sometimes given a name further demonstrates the degree of personification. Possession rituals make the objects part of the extended self. The rig represents dreams and hopes, characterises lifestyles, and contributes to shaping the players’ musical identity.

At the same time, the preoccupation with gear enables the musician to become a member of communities where gear is part of social etiquette, helping them build bonds and determining their position in the social hierarchy. In these communities, GAS is a well-known phenomenon and a common reference point for humorous dialogue and discussion. Social considerations not primarily related to the concept of extended self also affect acquisitions, be it for gear envy or adapting the rig to the overall sound of a band. As the findings suggest, bandmates, in particular, are important reference points, even if musicians prefer that they do not interfere in the choice of their equipment, as the rig still remains very personal to a player.
Period22 Oct 202124 Oct 2021
Event titleAll the Things You Are: Popular Music and Material Culture
Event typeConference
LocationDortmund, Germany, North Rhine-WestphaliaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational