September 24, 2009

What recession?

Passion fruitThere’s no denying that times are tougher for many, but I couldn’t help but notice that, overall, things stayed pretty much constant in the piping and drumming world this past year. The World’s and Maxville, to name a few, were as well attended as ever. I didn’t observe any substantial decline in piping/drumming-related businesses beyond the usual handful of companies giving up on business. To be sure, subscribers to and sponsors of pipes|drums continued to increase.

Again, I appreciate that many, many pipers and drummers may have tightened their sporran-strings, and some may have encountered very hard times. I wouldn’t dream of minimizing that. But I do think that, by-and-large, most pipers and drummers will always find a way to travel to competitions, to purchase those new reeds, to pursue their passion.

And that’s just it: passion. Anyone who is afflicted by the competition piping/drumming disease understands that it’s a hobby of passion. And any industry that is based mainly on such devotion is going to be, I think, on pretty solid economic ground.

There is always the small percentage of pipers and drummers who get fed up and abandon the scene, never to appear again. They lose their passion for it, which perhaps they never really had. But the rest of us march on, and find ways to feed the addiction no matter what the financial challenge.

Last winter, with stock markets tanking and the threat of global economic depression looming, I figured that the piping/drumming market would be severely impacted. I watched for considerable numbers of bands canceling trips, losing sponsorships and hemorrhaging personnel. I thought for sure that the trickle-down effect would mean many failed businesses and a substantial shake-out of the bagpipe manufacturing, reed-making and Highland wear industry.

Instead, to my pleasant surprise, things in our little world appear fairly constant. It’s a micro-economy built on passion.


  1. It will be interesting to see what happens next year. For some band, plans had already been made in the fall/winter of ’08 and money spent when the stuff hit the fan. Next year, I’m thinking things may start to take their toll, I know in my workplace we managed to hang on for this year, but next year there will be layoffs, as the work just isn’t coming back in. Wait and see I guess!

  2. I have to agree with Karen on this point. Typically what one would expect to see in an economic downturn is companies / foundations less willing to donate money for the “upcoming” fiscal year. Since most companies / foundations would budget a year in advance, money paid into the P/D scene (through wages to employees who in turn donate and direct donations etc.) this year would have been based on results from 2008, which really was before the credit crunch took hold. It’s common for a delayed effect on the economic downturn as it works its way through the big machine of industry, and i think we in the P/D scene will really see that effect this year.

  3. It’s important to note that the topic of premier was missed from the entry. I’d say that is a big sign of the recession which has left many a band out of pocket by going in to liquidation and not being able to provide drums to bands that had ordered them months in advance!

  4. What about the fans as well? I think the Ontario events have been attended by fans of piping as much as previous years. People are still coming out to support the local events and bands. Without the fans the events including businesses/vendors would suffer.

  5. It certainly is an interesting economic period. While some regions around the world are feeling the crunch, others are not nearly as affected and are even doing as well, if not better than last year. As far as the pipe band world, Andrew hit the nail on the head with the passion of the art helping people to rise above the economic challenge. And I would argue against golf costing more than piping/drumming. My two sets of pipes are definitely worth more than my two sets of clubs. In addition. not many people spend $1K or more on golf clothes, or $14.00 per golf ball. It is true, however, that green fees are more than games admission and club memberships are more than society membership fees, but it is easy to spend more overall with pipe bands when everthing is factored in.

  6. I think pipers and drummers are well equipped to deal with a recession -after all such a time invites creativity, alternative ways of doing things, finding other ways round things and pulling out other resources perhaps not so prevalent in better times. As musicians, creativity is surely our game. How many times have I watched pipers demonstrating a zillion other ways of doing things -whether its ways of tuning pipes, ways of learning a tune, ways of conducting pipe band practices, ways of learning embellishments etc. We constantly try to find other ways round things- the tutor helping a guy who had one finger missing, suggestions for myself about how to shut my bass drone off when I can’t reach the end of it, so many different ways of helping a ‘stuck’ pupil around a problem, all the ways of looking for that ‘even better’ sound from a band. And even now that there are so many top class people at the top, people pulling out that something extra to try and win the prize. As far as I can see, we’re ideally equipped to handle a recession. We’re used to finding creative solutions – isn’t it our bread and butter? Might we even come into our own and flourish in a recession?



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