November 30, 2011

Mojo rising

Pipers and drummers, like many people today, sometimes have a sense of entitlement that’s out of whack with reality. Putting together pipes|drums Magazine is 99.99% gratifying, or at least neutral. But a few times a year I’m reminded just how selfish people can be – even in this worldwide little piping and drumming club where you naturally expect more from privileged members.

Last week the great piper Willie McCallum provided a lovely tribute to the late Alasdair Gillies. His article followed an equally moving piece by the equally great Colin MacLellan. They put a lot of thought and work into putting their thoughts down and, frankly, I put a lot of thought and effort into obtaining their articles. These are historical pieces following the unfair death of one of history’s greatest pipers.

I decided to make Colin’s tribute available to all visitors to pipes|drums, unlike almost all Features articles that are for reserved for paying subscribers. In the case of Willie’s piece, I chose to designate it for subscribers-only. (I’ve since switched Colin’s to subscriber-only.)

I received this e-mail message from someone I know of but believe I’ve never met. I omitted his/her name but I kept the rotten syntax:

Subject: Willie McCallum article about Alasdair


I can’t believe you have restricted this article to subscribers only.     This is an ultimate  bad move.     the one from Colin wasn’t restricted.  Why this one?

Bad, bad, bad, bad mojo

That was how my Monday morning started. The inference was that I somehow grievously wronged the memory of Alasdair Gillies by not making this tribute available to all for free.

Perhaps the judicious action would have been to press Delete and try to forget it, but anyone who knows me knows that that’s not my nature. Perhaps it’s a fault, but I tend to think there would never have been a pipes|drums if I just ignored things I perceive to be unfair. So, here’s how I responded:

Hi _____—

Sorry you don’t think the piece was worth including with a $15 annual subscription.

If you subscribe to any print magazines or newspapers, do you send similar angry messages about their “bad mojo” when they run extensive obituaries and tributes?

On the other hand, wasn’t it exceedingly generous that Colin MacLellan’s tribute was available to all?

What about thanking people like Willie McCallum or Colin or – heaven forbid – me, for putting this stuff together for you?

Perhaps you might consider your rather negative perspective.


I don’t begrudge anyone expressing their opinion, however wrong it may be, but I tend to think that this was just an instance of someone’s sense of entitlement skewing their common sense, manners and decency. Incidentally, I haven’t heard from the person since.

Pipers and drummers today often bellyache about things that years ago would have been the stuff of fantastic dreams. $10.99 for an iPhone bagpipe tuner?! A pipe band concert in a grand hall for $40?! Too many ticketed events at Piping Live!?! Having to pay $15 for a year’s access to more than 4,000 original articles on a nonprofit online magazine?!

Bad, bad mojo indeed.


  1. Keep up the good work
    The subscription is a small price to pay to keep up with all that is going on in the world of pipe bands and to read articles about and by the top men/ women.
    I know how hard it is to keep a ‘bands column’ going in a small local newspaper and I cover all types of bands. How much more difficult it must be to consistently run top quality articles.
    Pay up I say – its only the price of a few beers

  2. It has been my experience that many people in our tiny idiom are complete jerks. It is proportionate to the real world, which means about 80% I could completely do without…the old 80/20 rule. And I consider myself a pretty open-minded person. Keep up the good work and ignore the ignorant majority.

  3. I Prefer the following statistical percentages:

    In any organization:

    2% do what is necessary;
    8% will help if specifically asked to do so and are assigned a specific task:
    70% will do nothing but will accept what the first 10% do;
    15% will carp, criticize and claim they would have done it better (but never do) and
    5% will actively obstruct and hinder the efforts of the first 10% to the greatest degree possible.

  4. Firstly, thanks Andrew for having the energy to do this. Checking Pipes Drums is a daily ritual for me. Secondly thanks to Colin and Willie for sharing their views and personal experiences in memory of one of the piping world’s most cherished heroes. I can only hope that there are more on the way.

    While you have responded to the incredibly disrespectful and selfish message that you received, you have left out one major factor that could have been included with your response. Specifically, you have a copyright in relation to the materials that you publish. You have often highlighted the copyright issues that arise in the piping and drumming world relating to performer’s rights. In some cases, performers/competitors do not put a lot of thought into the copyright issues, and they often waive those rights when they accept the entry conditions to contests. In other cases, people just do not know when they may have a copyright. By contrast, you are well aware of your rights, but in most cases, you open up your copyrighted materials to non-subscribers — the whole world. Where you do reward subscribers, the content is always worth much more than the price of the subscription, which quite frankly, is peanuts!

    Those of us who know you well recognize the service that you do for piping. We all know that this is not a commercial venture for you, and that you generously sponsor many piping events with the sparse proceeds from the online magazine. I appreciate all that you do, and I know that many, many others feel the same.

  5. PipesDrums is my home page. I check it everyday and find the contents highly informative and cogent. You aare to be congratulated for all the work you do in producing the magazine and you should ignore the idiots and freeloaders that you will get in every walk of life (Refer to the statistical reply which says it all. 10% do 80% follow and 10% oppose regardless)

  6. Andrew you do a great job keeping the piping world in the loop, on the other hand you listen to someone who still says mojo. There is an incongruity here somewhere. Just keep up the good work and activate your mental screener before you read this kind of thing. Cheers.

  7. agree with the complainer, you moved the goal posts and gave no indication why. The price of the subscription is not the issue here, your inconsistency is. If you wanted to make the subsequent contributions for subscribers only, you should have outlined your reasons you stated in the blog in the first place.

    Then you write this blog knowing your regular yes men/women contributors would stroke your ego.

    This comment comes from an anonymous yet believe it or not a paid up subscriber. Yes the price is a steal but YOU Andrew are missing the, what I believe to be a, valid point.

  8. Such is life, we have all experienced nasty experiences and it sometimes takes a lot to motivate yourself to ignore and rise above it. But this is what we/I must do especially where we are responsible for others. I have made mistakes, apologised and moved on, nobody is perfect. It is better for me to focus on the good things than focus on the few regrets. I enjoy reading pipesdrums so keep doing what you are doing.

  9. Awesome job as always, Andrew. For those who are angry that putting forth a publication, that is not-for-profit, and think that your work is not time consuming and should be free to all, shame on them. NY Times, Newsweek, TIME, any publication that has information that has value isn’t free. And if anything, we should pay to just promote and protect the art of bagpiping. If you ever come into the NY area for a peek at whats happening. I’ll buy you a pint for all of the hard work put forth by you and the crew to make p|d a worldclass publication for piping freaks like us.

  10. Anon (the only contributor incidentally responding negatively) wrote: “Then you write this blog knowing your regular yes men/women contributors would stroke your ego.”

    My view is that it is worth stroking your ego if that’s what drives you to produce a great magazine. And for what it’s worth it I agree with your stance on this issue – well done.

    Best wishes


  11. I can understand you being p***** off by finding that remark on a Monday morning. It’s a pretty thankless task when you do heaps for nothing other than the love or passion for it, and then get negative feedback. The guy who wrote the comments might well have been frustrated and angry about who knows what, and this was the last straw–we don’t know who or why–but the biggest mistake was clicking the SEND button. In the grand scale of pipes|drums, does one angry gripe really matter all that much? I’m sure for every negative comment there must be thousands of happy, satisfied, and extremely appreciative customers, whether they express it directly or not. Upwards and onwards!

  12. I think the original poster and “anon” above are way off base, for different reasons. I don’t think goal posts were moved at all. Every online service, offers one-time tasters of a type or series, the rest of which you have to subscribe to get.

    And, if you believe so much, anon, sign your name to it.

  13. The objective of the post was not to have people blow smoke or have my ego or anything else stroked (see Vanessa’s comment above), it was to table the issue of malcontent pipers and drummers. That said, it’s great when friends and strangers come to one’s defense. Anon, I actually think the original whinger had a valid point — but she allowed herself to think in strictly negative terms. Not free?! How dare you! Rather than thinking it was a great bonus to have a Feature piece like Colin’s available to all, she was upset that Willie’s tribute wasn’t. Conversely, if I were a subscriber shouldn’t I be hacked off that others are getting to read what normally is available only to me? I was not pissed off with the dissenting view; just saddened a bit by someone missing the big picture benefit — to my mind, anyway — of the whole operation. It’s like talking to someone after hearing a terrific pipe band performance dwell on missed-this and bad-that, rather than consider the experience as a whole. And to a large extent, that’s our biggest problem, and a topic of another conversation.

  14. I finally paid up about 3 or 4 years ago, I couldn’t even tell you when I get charged anymore, I don’t notice it. if anyone wants a few beers for $15, come join my band (leave email) we get a deal at the local pub, $3pints. As far as this article goes, Iain said it best. Everyone charges, everyone gives up free samples. Could you have said future articles would be only for subscribers? sure. Would it have made a difference? no. Did this person take the whole day off of work when he found out the 2nd one was posted? probably. Anyway, I constanly disagree with a lot, but that’s why I pay, so I can bitch, just like I vote, so I can do the same thing. And last but not least, Fred Hansford: I wish I could like your post a million times! instead I will copy and paste, (your check is in the mail).

  15. I think that, in this situation, the quality of the construction of the complaint is perhaps a fine indication of whether one should bother one’s britches about this persons opinion. P|d is a valued resource and such criticism is obviously not valid. Finally, just to be clear, this is not about ego stroking, it’s about being fair!



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