Bagpiping has allowed me to experience things I never would have and to meet a wide range of people in a lot of very different situations. I’ve seen and experienced the joy of a wedding ceremony and the grief of a funeral and all emotions in between.
So what is the value of a bagpiper? What is he or she worth? There are three main considerations.
- First how far did the bagpiper travel and how long to dress, tune and perform? Like a lawyer a bagpiper can base their value on the time spent on completing the performance.
- One can also look at the value of equipment and maintenance. Bagpipes typically run $1200 and up. Uniform items probably $1500 and up. Some items run almost up to $10,000.
- Thirdly the value of something is what someone is willing to pay for it. Are you a premier bagpiper with the experience to get the best out of the instrument? Can the bagpiper deliver when it really counts- like playing newlyweds out of the church? Or striking in the pipes in front of hundreds of mourners at a funeral without a squawk or bad note? Sometimes bagpiping is not for the faint of heart. I once had to play in front of 115,000 people. Talk about pressure! Great bagpipers deliver at the big moments. It’s one of the reasons they command a higher price. Bagpipers can also place value on the time they dedicate to their craft or how many years they have spent learning the instrument. I spend a minimum of one half hour pretty much everyday working on my craft and very often more time than that.
I’ve had clients tell me I’m too expensive. They go out and find a kid or an amateur piper to do the job. My service was not worth it to the client; they didn’t really value my service enough. But when the big moment comes do you want a hack piper that can’t play the tunes, looks shabby or doesn’t know how to tune their instrument? For me that’s a very bad decision but I’m not the client. Often when it comes to bagpiping at gigs there is only one chance to get it right. Clients won’t remember how much they saved on a bad bagpiper but they’ll remember the disappointing performance they heard. On the other hand if the performance is great, the pipes are singing and you’ve got a pro playing you will never forget it. That’s real value- a treasured memory.
I’ve been told “I never pay a bagpiper, I just give him or her a meal and a pint”, also “there will be a lot of exposure on this gig- you’ll get lots of gigs as a result”. If I had a nickel for every time I heard those promises! Now, older and wiser, I decline gigs with big promises – I’d rather stay home and be with my family.
Higher cost & valuation
I have noticed that clients and people in general place a higher value on things that they purchased at a higher cost. I once spoke to a dog breeder that said when he sold a dog for $2,000 he was sure the dog would be treated excellently, if he sold the dog for $50 it would be poorly treated. I’ve experienced the same thing with bagpiping. When I have done charity events I’m often ignored and generally expected to hang around for hours on end until the organizers are ready for me to perform. On the other hand when I am being paid well people are concerned about me, they are concerned about my time and treat me with a little more respect.
Personally, I charge based on the distance to the gig and the time involved. All the other time practicing and the costs of the equipment and uniform are not included. I would have spent those anyway to play an instrument I love to play and hear. I also love the sincere thanks I get from my clients. They really do appreciate me coming to play for them and often send me thanks afterward. That is very rewarding to me as a piper- that I made a difference for someone else. It’s a blessing.
Have you ever hired a performer who didn’t live up to expectations? Or encountered a musician who really amazed you?