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.