After my last post, I began thinking about numbers. I’ve put a lot of energy lately into my bagpipe “business,” and figured I should do some basic calculations and see just exactly how successful – in a purely economic sense – I am. I also wondered if I am charging too much (I don’t think so), largely because I get a lot of inquiries from my website (mcmichaelpiping.com) which, after I quote a fee, vanish into the ether.
So here it is; as you can tell, if you have the patience to sort through this mess, I am no financial wizard. But the rough costs below and the conclusion I reached (that it will take nine years to begin making a profit) were kind of surprising. Therefore, being a professional bagpiper is truly a labor of love.
Bagpipe gig (average)
Fee: + $150
Fuel: – $12
Net: + $138
1. Dress: 15 minutes
2. Drive to gig: 30 minutes
3. Performance site: 1 hour
4. Drive home: 30 minutes
5. Undress: 15 minutes
Total time: 2.5 hours (@ $138 net for a gig, this works out to $55/hour)
• Bagpipes $2,000
• Kilt & flash $1,000 (two kilts required)
• Ghillie Brogues (shoes) $ 150
• Kilt hose (socks) $ 100 (minimum 3 pairs required)
• Sgian dubh (knife in hose) $ 75
• Kilt belt & buckle $ 150
• Sporrans $ 450 (two required: dress and day)
• Prince Charlie jacket & vest $ 300
• Argyll jacket $ 300
• Jacobite shirt $ 50
• Dress shirts & ties $ 300 (three each required)
• Glengarry (military hat) $ 85
• Balmoral (casual hat) $ 85
• Clan crest badges (for hats) $ 50
• Kilt crest pins $ 50
• Music books $ 500 (bagpipe music books are very expensive)
At $138 net per gig, I would need 41 full-paying gigs to pay off the required equipment. In the first six months of 2011 I’ve had 8 paying gigs. Assuming I average 16 gigs per year, it would take over 2.5 years to pay off the required equipment. Factoring in interest rates and miscellaneous expenses let’s say a 3-year loss of $2000 per year should cover the “one-time” equipment costs. Other annual costs (below) add to the ramp-up schedule and time-to-profit.
Other annual costs ($1,500 per year):
- Bagpipe lessons & workshops: $1,000 (Coeur d’Alene Piping Camp)
- Chanter reeds: $100 (one chanter reed = $15; practice chanter reeds = $10)
- Marketing: $400 (website, business cards, brochures, mailings)
The annual costs and equipment amortization for the first 3 years would result in accumulated debt of $3,876 assuming income remains the same. After equipment costs are paid, it would take about 5 more years to amortize the accumulated debt.
Year 1: Income ($2,208) – Expenses ($2000 + $1500 = $3,500) = -$1,292
Year 2: Income ($2,208) – Expenses ($2000 + $1500 = $3,500) = -$1,292
Year 3: Income ($2,208) – Expenses ($2000 + $1500 = $3,500) = -$1,292
Years 4-8: Income ($11,040) – Expenses ($7,500) – Y1-3 debt ($3,876) = -$336
Year 9: Income ($2,208) – Expenses ($1500) – $336 from Y8 = $372
Nine years ain’t bad. I won’t even be 60 yet, and might be able to blow another ten to fifteen years after that. With any luck, too, I might get more gigs and collect more income. But the equipment doesn’t last forever, either, and I’ll need another set of pipes soon, and probably another kilt. The bottom line, obviously, is that – even charging what some apparently consider exorbitant fees – I’m not in it for the money. Few, if any, pipers are.