How much does it cost to hire a bagpiper?
The cost of hiring a bagpiper depends on many factors including the length of the performance, travel distance and time, any costs incurred by the bagpiper (tolls, gas, taxes), special tune requests, etc. Additional factors like the bagpiper's years of experience or the local market supply and demand might influence the quote. Each bagpiper will have their own method for determining the final cost, but knowing it's a combination of factors can help explain some differences in price range.
While the variation from locale to locale and piper to piper makes it nearly impossible to provide a range, it is safe to assume that most quality bagpipers are not in the business of playing for tips nor will it cost in the high hundreds (unless it involves overnight stays, flights, etc.)
Bagpiper prices based on events
Many bagpipers have a different pricing structure based on the type of event. For example, the fee schedule for weddings and funerals might be very different from how a charity or fundraising event is priced out. Some pipers might also offer discounts for military and first responders or even a loyalty/repeat customer or referral rate.
Breaking down the bagpiper cost
Especially if it's your first time working with a piper - it's natural to associate the quoted cost directly to the time spent performing. Because it's natural to form this association - a price quote can sometimes result in some sticker shock; but it's important to understand the full context in terms of preparation, travel time, and the actual performance.
Even if the musical performance itself only lasts 20 minutes, the bagpiper is still investing time "behind the scenes" including bagpipe maintenance, dressing in uniform, traveling to and from the venue, pre-event rehearsals, transposing, learning, and practicing any non-repertoire tunes, etc. (not to mention the financial investment to maintain the instrument and uniform!)
So what on the surface might appear as a 20 minute engagement could in reality add up to several hours in total.
To give an example, the cost of dining out at a fancy restaurant isn't limited to the short period of time spent actually eating, but rather takes into account the cost to the restaurant in purchasing the food, the skills of the chef and their many years of practice and refinement, the quality of service provided, etc.
Reframing the quoted cost in this context offers up a new perspective on the quoted rates of many top-rate, professional bagpipers.