Where are the leaders?

You go can lead. No, you lead. No, go right ahead . . .The post-season partings from premier pipe bands seem to increase every year. What’s perhaps more interesting is that these leadership vacancies appear to be increasingly difficult to fill. Pipe-Majors and Lead-Drummers resign and, more often than not these days, there’s no ready successor. Bands usually have to go searching for willing leaders. Some have even resorted to advertising.

Was this always the case? Not so long ago, it seems to me, every pipe band had numerous pipers and drummers looking for their shot at leadership. When there was a chance to become a P-M or L-D of a top-grade band, people would leap at the opportunity. Now it seems like talented players with potential leadership skills have to be persuaded to take on the job.

And the job today is ever more complex and difficult, even though the rewards are pretty much exactly the same as they were in 1947. Never mind having a great ear and musical talent, leading a modern top-grade band demands extraordinary “man-management” skills. Today’s Grade 1 pipe-majors and lead-drummers are supervising sensitive egos of skilled players who often would just as soon go elsewhere if you dare to look at them sideways.

Their role demands that they deal with terrific pressure to produce a professional-quality band while still trying to enjoy their hobby. It’s a full-time job that has to be completed during so-called free-time. In truth, managing people, instruments, music, logistics and who-knows-what-else is a full-time job that has the exact same return as ever before.

There’s no money in it. Unless you’re an extraordinarily rare case – like, for example, Terry Tully, Terry Lee, Richard Parkes or Bill Livingstone – there’s inevitably a coup d’état awaiting you down the road. You now have to manage twice as many players. The glory is whatever self-satisfaction you can derive from doing something well and, all too often, it’s a thankless job. Every year the investment is more but the return is the same. Further, you can do your absolute best and wholeheartedly believe in and love your band, only to have some anonymous, incompetent, cowardly idiot skewer you on the net. Who needs it?

But perhaps the two situations go hand-in-hand. The reluctant leader is almost always the best. He or she doesn’t pine for the job, but must be convinced to do it and, when coaxed to give it a try, all too often turns out to be really good at it.

By that token, beware the piper or drummer who’s looking for a leadership gig. There are of course exceptions, but one can’t help but notice those who bounce from band to band, looking for the next great thing. And why does the next great thing never happen for them? That’s right, because they’re leading it.

So maybe it’s understandable that natural born leaders today have to be discovered. They have to be cajoled and coaxed and persuaded to just try it, to tide the band over just for one season. They step up to help not because they want to help their ego, but because they want to help the band.

And with luck and a lot of care and feeding, they’ll learn to love the job and not run screaming from the ordeal they never really wanted in the first place.

What’s in a name?

A rose is a rose is a rose.The move to rename the magazine “pipes|drums” was made about three years ago. It was previously known as “Piper & Drummer Online,” and complemented the now defunct print publication. The name could have been kept, but it made more sense to start a new era with a new name, and it’s been a great success.

But I’ve noticed that people are still a bit unsure of the name. “Piper & Drummer” established very good brand recognition, of course, so old habits die hard, especially in the tradition-fixated piping and drumming world. I also hear a lot of folks refer to the magazine as “pipes and drums” – something of a morph between the old and new.

The correct name and pronunciation is, however, “pipesdrums.” All one word, no “and.”

There are reasons for the name. First, “pipes” and “drums” are an equal five letters. That balance is in line with the goal of providing content of interest, overall, to both pipers and drummers. Some articles – for example, those on piobaireachd – may be of interest especially to pipers, just as the current feature on mid-sections could attrcat the attention of more drummers. But, again, providing an overall balance is the objective, and one can reasonably assume that a publication called the Fiddling Times, or Fiddling Today, or the Fiddle Band are really pretty much only for fiddlers.

Many folks aren’t quite sure about the | symbol, which, incidentally can be found on most keyboards by shifting the backslash ( ) key. The reason for the vertical slash is, again, to reflect balance. Pipes and drums are separate but equal. It was a conscious decision not to use the ampersand or “and” since that might imply that one is an afterthought. I was always a little uncomfortable with “Piper & Drummer,” wondering if it implicitly suggested “pipers . . . oh, yeah . . . and drummers.”

Lastly, it’s all lower-case. Because it’s all one word, it was thought that it would throw things out of balance with a capitalized “Pipes” and non-capitalized “drums.” And having Both Capitalized just looked odd. Besides, we’re a class-less culture, as it were.

So, there you are. As one who has had to spell out his last name repeatedly, I thought it might be beneficial to clarify again the name of the magazine.

pipes|drumsproper noun, pīpsdrŭms – world’s most read magazine for pipers and drummers; nonprofit and independent and sustained by sponsors and subscribers . . . like you.

I don’t buy it

The commercial recordings of the World Pipe Band Championships are now being sold, and, as always, the performers don’t get a red pence for their work. Not a penny, dollar, punt, pound or centime for their efforts. pipes|drums has discussed the legalities of this at length, and brought the issue to the fore several years ago but, sadly, no progress has been made. Not a single word of explanation from either the RSPBA or the record company.

So, it’s time for individuals to stop buying the products and instead rip copies from a single source, and it’s time that the CD and DVD dealers stop purchasing from the record company and distributor. The reality is that every time we purchase these products we in effect take money out of the pockets of the artists who deserve – by law – their fair share. It’s simply not right.

It’s most remarkable to me that we all perpetuate the problem by turning a blind eye. Every off-season there’s some hue and cry from the bands that the practice ignores performers’ legal right to negotiate compensation, but as the days creep closer to the summer and the World’s itself the protests dwindle for fear of rocking a competition boat.

So I figure the only way to trigger change is not to purchase the products. If you’re desperate to hear these recordings, invest instead in software that will allow you to record the BBC’s streamed video so that you can play that original content again and again. (At least the BBC doesn’t charge anyone for the content.) Or, if you buy a copy of the CD, upload the content to a music file sharing site for all to take freely.

Once and for all, let’s stop buying these for-profit products until a legal agreement is reached with the performers. Until then, we’re just adding to the problem.