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Jeffrey P. Fisher
There's no such thing as a free lunch is the quote you've often heard. I disagree. If you are willing to part with some of your time, experience, and maybe a tiny bit of cash, you CAN get lots of free things to use to further your music and sound career. What do you have to do to get this free gear? You just need to take the initiative
 Free offers
Keep your eyes open and take advantage of free offers you see in magazines, newspapers, and online. When manufacturers offer free samples of their wares, ask for your share. By just responding to offers in ads and such I've received free DAT tapes, production music and sound effects CDs, newsletter and magazine subscriptions, and other doo-dads. Many manufacturers want you to try their stuff and they use free samples as a way to get you to try -- and later buy -- what they offer. Take advantage of these offers and you'll get all kinds of neat things. Don't just be a freebie seeker, though. If you like what you get, you might consider becoming a regular customer. Much of the gear and software I now use (and pay for) came from free sample requests.
Another way to get free gear is to enter contests. Magazines, manufacturers, and music stores are always offering contests that earn winners free music gear and related material. For usually filling out a form or postcard, you have the chance to win. I'm not a big contest fanatic, but when presented with the opportunity, I'll add my name to the list. I don't mail dozens of entries or advocate staking your life -- or career -- on winning a contest, but it can be fun. I've walked away with T-shirts, books, and other door prizes at local music stores and conferences after doing nothing more than putting my name on a card. At one music store's invitation-only sale, I printed my name on the back of the ticket. This was dropped into the box upon entering the store. The next day the music store called and said I won the guitar they were giving away. Sweet.
 Write in exchange for free gear
This next method requires the most work on your part. However, the rewards are greater, too. You won't spend much money, but you will spend some of your time. The basic strategy is to contact magazines, newsletters, Web sites, and manufacturers and offer to trade your musical expertise for something else. In short, propose an article, review, or tip sheet about a piece of gear. I've scored several hundred dollars in software and other gear in exchange for writing reviews and articles. In many cases I was paid for the articles, too. At the very least, I used the articles to plug books and other resources that I sell. Simply send a brief letter or e-mail to the target publication or manufacturer. Describe your article idea, what is important about it, why it's important, and why you are qualified to write it. Follow up and see what happens.
 Get free stuff, the easy way
Of course, there is a wealth of free information, samples, software, and more yours for the taking on the Internet. Just login and a grab what you need. Start here: http://www.jeffreypfisher.com/free.html
Why pay to make your musical life better when you can get some of what you need free?