Opinion: The World’s needs a shakeup
For sure, take the best of what it already offers, but the rest of the piping and drumming world looks to this event for guidance. As goes the World’s, so goes the world.
Based on everything we saw and heard, following are a few recommended changes:
Drop the MSR. At least in Grade 1 and Grade 2, it’s time to bring in a new medley format, where essentially anything goes for between, say 10 and 15 minutes. Keep the familiar 5-7 minute format and require bands to use only certain genres, but bands are ready to expand and listeners are ready to hear it. There is a reason why the Pre-World’s Concert sells out: people want to hear new and creative material.
Concert formation. The huddle of pipers and drummers closing ranks against the judges and audience is something out of a Victorian novel. Play to the audience so bands can be seen and, most importantly, heard. Even the BBC mics have a hard time picking up the audio with the circle mob.
Add more judges. Along with the new medley format, take a cue from the Breton scene and expand judging panel to about 15, including those for bass section, and maybe one or two accomplished non-pipe band piper/drummer musicians.
Take the Grade 1 Final indoors. We’ve said this before and will keep saying it: there is absolutely no good reason why a 10- or even 15-band final can’t be held at a venue like the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall or the SECC. Sell tickets. Provide neutral conditions for bands, judges and listeners that avoid pelting rain, belting wind and the wee granny talking incessantly on her phone as you crane to hear from the sidelines. Fergus Muirhead does a great job, and he should continue as emcee of the indoor final.
Split Grade 1. Time for a premier grade. The divide between the elite Grade 1 bands and the rest is widening and it needs to be addressed. The problem is there are fewer Grade 1 bands worldwide than ever. Perhaps it’s more a re-calibration of Grade 1 and Grade 2 standards that’s needed.
Pay the performers. It’s simple: if you can’t afford to hold a live music festival and pay the entertainment, you need to reassess the whole thing. But it IS affordable. So at least compensate those performers populating the live-stream, radio and TV shows accordingly. And for God’s sake, raise the Grade 1 first prize to something respectable – nothing less than £15,000. The money is there; share it around.
Make the live-stream pay-per-view. We’re thinking maybe a $10 charge for each day. If the BBC isn’t allowed per their UK mandate, sell the rights to a broadcaster that is. If the 40,000-odd viewership that the BBC claims is true, this is a lucrative deal for some company. That’s $400,000 a day. They can pocket $200,000 and the rest can go to the performers.
Ditch the march past. We’ll keep saying this, too. No one likes the interminable march past, so why does it continue? Put the drum-majors in the spotlight, and bring waves of bands, marching down the hill. North America can teach you how this is done.
These are just a few suggestions. As long as the World’s remains status quo the rest of the world will, too.
Time to shake it up.