Why is it so expensive to hire a bagpiper?
To be honest, I’m not often asked this question. However, I often feel that potential clients have this question in the back of their minds. Here I will attempt an answer.
First, bagpipers are in a small class of musicians who are required by the laws of the universe to don a uniform or costume before performing. I am referring to the kilt. A decent kilt costs around $600.00. But the kilt cannot be worn alone. With the kilt comes the vest ($100), the hose ($30), the belt ($80), the buckle ($30), the Glenn Garry hat ($80), the flashes ($20), and the sporran ($100). I’m wearing about $1000 to your event…rain or shine.
Next the pipes. The average set of pipes played by a professional cost about $1500. The chanter reed costs about $12 and lasts about 8 months. However these fragile bits of cane could go at any time, especially in extreme weather or when dropped. I’ll bring two or three to your event just in case. I’ll also have a spare set of pipes just in case; my stand-by pipes were $500.
Lastly, my time. It takes about a half hour to dress in the uniform. I want to be at your event about 45 minutes early to ensure I can find the best place to stand whilst performing. I also need to tune the pipes which is a loud and somewhat un-musical task to which I want to limit your guest’s exposure. If you request a tune or tunes with which I am not familiar it will take me about 5 hours minimum to research, learn, memorize and practice those tunes. If you request a tune for which I cannot find music I will need to transcribe that tune for bagpipes, another 3 hours. Even if the tune is one I know well I will need to spend a minimum of 5 hours days prior to your event practicing to ensure a smooth performance. This is of course in addition to the ~8000 hours I’ve spent to perfect the pipes thus far.
I hope that this explanation helps to answer the questions you may or may-not have been pondering. I appreciate any opportunity to share my love of Celtic music with others and you should be glad to know that whatever fee you pay for my performance will be re-invested in that music.