October 18, 2014


The 2015 World’s format is backwards.

It’s hard to fault the organizers for having another go at the 2014 format: Friday only Grade 1 qualifying; Saturday is the Grade 1 Final and everything else.

It’s an opportunity missed. But in a few years it will go like this – guaranteed:

On Saturday, all bands compete at Glasgow Green in qualifiers and/or finals, except all Grade 1 bands entered competed in two heats in Medley and MSR events to determine a final round of 10 or 12.

All winners and Grade 1 finalists are announced at a wonderful march-past.

Then, on Sunday, those 10 or 12 Grade 1 Finalists compete in an afternoon MSR (if they insist), and a Medley at night at a ticketed indoor venue like the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall or SECC.

Charge £25 for the MSR. Clear the packed hall, and then £40 for the Medley and announcement – or £55 for the combined deal. At an average gate of, say £60, with a certain packed hall for each event of 2,800, that’s approximately £175,000 in ticket sales. People pay £30 for one Grade 1 band for two hours; they will pay at least that for four-plus hours of a dozen bands.

The Sunday event is hosted by Bob Worrall and A. John Wilson, tag-teaming in their inimitable styles. When one is not on stage, the other is in the broadcast booth with Jackie. BBC Scotland (or whatever broadcaster bids the highest amount for the valuable broadcast rights, which would be on the order of £50,000-75,000, given the overall value of the event) mounts at least seven cameras in the hall, and conducts behind-the-scenes shots and interviews as bands tune and leave.

The RSPBA can take, say, £10,000, the hall gets maybe £5,000, the stewards and compilers get £1,000, each judges gets his/her usual £75 and a Jaffa cake, and the remaining £180,000 or so goes to the bands and the composers and arrangers – those whose terrific music is the valuable product being sold.

People will argue that there’s not enough room at these venues to handle 10-12 bands tuning. That’s incorrect. As with top-flight solo competitions, there will be two designated tuning areas. Each band has exactly 40 minutes to tune in the building, and that’s bags of time for these elite groups in a controlled, indoor environment.

Sunday might be problematic for some religious people, just as Saturday is for some others, and perhaps Friday is for even others. I completely respect those with religious beliefs, but if they conflict with the quasi-religion of pipe bands, well, they’ll just have to choose which is more important. The shops are open on Sunday, after all.

I’m confident that this format will eventually happen. It’s the obvious thing to do.

The benefits of Saturday outdoor World’s and a Sunday indoor Grade 1 Final World Championship are obvious to me:

  • The Friday is freed up again for Piping Live!
  • All of the bands get to compete on Saturday.
  • Those not competing on Sunday (and maybe also those who are) can celebrate Saturday night.
  • Nearly 4,000 total enthusiasts can enjoy the indoor Grade 1 Final nirvana on Sunday in cozy comfort.
  • The world’s greatest bands can show their stuff without the threat of being drenched with horizontal rain, equalizing the conditions.
  • Bands compete in concert formation.
  • Judges hear and see everything.
  • Audience gets the pipe band listening experience of a lifetime.
  • The broadcaster can create an even better production (and sell pay-per-view, if they like) for those who prefer to watch the stream.
  • The bands and composers can share in the substantial licensing rights.

And the Grade 1 World Championship can have the venue and conditions and spotlight that it truly deserves – finally.


  1. when you look around the grandstand at the worlds you were met with empty seats on both days and that only cost £25, so do you really think that folk will pay £60????

    1. Many will, and more will choose either the MSR or the Medley separately. Nearly 2,800 happily pay £30 for the Pre-World’s Concert every year, and non-UK people invest a huge amount to fly to Scotland and commit vacation money to the week. The stands at the World’s were less-crowded in 2014 and ’13 because of the weather. The MSR is clearly not popular with listeners, so perhaps that event gets replaced by a “Concert” piece. Think big.

  2. so basically you are saying that kids who want to see grade 1, the top echelon, that which they should strive to be – are to be priced out of watching them at their best indoors.

    Not only that – but the already unbalanced way that Grade 1 is heavily televised and covered, and given preferntial treatment in all of the decisions being made in the last few years – you now want to give ONLY them the luxury of an indoor arena.

    bring back some equality to the grade 2 and 3 at least – and whilst you are at it – maybe the development bands at grade 4 can get a bit of coverage for once. some of those bands are just as deserving to be playing on the grade one arena as any juveline or grade 1 band.

    I admire the attempt to write what you did – and it was well said – but what a pile of rubbish to be honest.

    1. Well, at least I sign my name to MY rubbish. The “kids” still see their Grade 1 heroes on Saturday, just like always. There is more attention on Grade 1 for the same reason there is more attention on the major sports leagues. Some people follow Division 4 football, but their grounds are far smaller and the coverage far less for a reason. That said, I believe the Juvenile grade was held in the main arena for the last two years, and the Grade 2 final in 2014. Pricing would need to be considered. The RSPBA, BBC and Glasgow Life right now share none of the licensing or ticket revenue with the bands and composers/arrangers whose product they sell, or, perhaps more accurately, exploit. So, if they priced tickets for an indoor Grade 1 final at £15, and shared the money with those who have earned it, everyone would still be further ahead. Thanks for reading.

  3. Wow! A brilliant scenario designed by a real professional. If only you could be in charge. Alas, the crotchety old minds that are in charge are still back in the middle ages and won’t hear of it. A great plan, Andrew, but you are dreaming in Technicolor.

  4. not a bad idea but one issue would be the availability of practise rooms for 10-12 Grade 1 bands. The Royal Concert Hall hasn’t got the space for this number of bands/performers.

  5. I love the concept and this makes way too much sense. For those wanting to see the other grades, maybe between the MSR/Medley there is a secondary event on stage where the top three of each grade are invited to perform a short 10 minute concert themselves, given the audience and others the benefit to see what is happening in other grades. I’ll be saving all of my pennies for this type of event!!

  6. Who will know what will happen in the future…

    My question is: why a qualification on Glasgow Green?

    Like in sports one can make use of pre-qualifications. Let’s divide the 12 final positions regarding several countries or ‘parts of the world’.
    Eg 5 bands from Scotland, 3 bands from Ireland / Northern Ireland, 3 bands from USA / Canada en 1 band from Australia / New Zealand. The Majors in Scotland, the All-Irish etc. will decide which band will play at the Worlds?

    I favour a one-day World Pipe Band Championships (on Saturday) at Glasgow Green!

  7. imo you can’t judge pipe bands properly indoors. solo’s yes-bands no.
    with the level that is currently being displayed in grade 1 with sound not to mention volume of membership the outdoors is required to pick up the minor subtleties between bands. which to my mind would not be audible- even in a concert hall.

    many an average gr 1 pipeband over the years have been the benefactor of the cozy Glasgow concert hall stage Wed evening -only to be found out 3 days later in the contest ring outdoors.

  8. Huh?! You mean we wouldn’t get to sit or stand in the pishing rain hoping the wind will blow in the right direction so we can actually hear things? You mean we could have a comfy seat in a warm hall with perfect acoustics? You mean there would be no wee grannie yappitting away next to us as she maws at her piece? It’s a great day oot! Cannae change that wonderful tradition, man!

  9. I totally agree, this is a great idea. this would be a resounding success, it would enhance the sound of each band, take away the rain and the unfairness and the wind. it’s a brilliant idea, i could not agree more.

  10. This concept would allow the worlds to move to a whole new level of musical excellence. One can only imagine the world’s top bands demonstrating what they can do musically in a controlled environment before a knowledgeable and enthusiastic audience.

    There would, of course, be a slew of unforeseen problems and impediments, but all should be resolvable with good management and planning skills.

    If the worlds are ever held in Canada, given then Canadian’s ability to deliver beyond expectations, there will be no turning back to the old format.

    In any event, change will take place, slowly, but inevitably. Your blog post is symptomatic of a new and rising wave.

  11. One big negative not mentioned so far is that the acoustic indoors is poor for pipe bands, making the necessary fine judgement impossible. Surely a major consideration.



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