What is the Price of a Pipe Organ?

Organ committees almost inevitably need to compare quotations from several organbuilding firms, but how, even when a 'standard' stop list is given, can one compare realistically?

Price comparisons for custom-designed works of art are difficult to analyse - design details, materials, and construction methods can vary considerably from one firm to another, and production costs, too, may well be different depending on such things as experience, employment conditions, and regional overheads.  Since Lammermuir Pipe Organs build only mechanical action pipe organs housed in solid timber cases, our prices will vary somewhat from those of builders whose instruments are all electric, or electropneumatic, yet the overall idea remains the same.

Though prices will vary, the following breakdown, which includes materials, labour and overheads for the construction of an organ with straightforward design and simple installation, will be roughly this:

Design and sales 6%
Soundboards 9%
Key and stop actions 14%
Winding systems 4%
Casework 21%
Pipework/racking & fitting 33%
Voicing and finishing 6%
Installation 7%
Total 100%

These percentages will hold fairly constant for organs of comparable size and construction.  In smaller organs, soundboards, key and stop actions become a bigger percentage; in larger organs (over 20 stops) they become a smaller percentage.

The important thing in examining the various quotations offered is not so much comparing the total cost but comparing what exactly is being offered by the different builders, and what factors are reflected in the quoted costs.  The purchaser is engaging skilled craftsmen to build a work of art, constructed of fine materials and involving extremely labour-intensive processes, which should not be hurried.  The purchaser is also paying many comparatively high overheads of an organbuilding business which, although making use of many time-honoured methods of craftsmanship, must exist in the modern world where many other industries enjoy lower overheads and material costs, and higher turn-overs and profit-margins.  Certainly, when comparing the quality of materials, craftsmanship and artistic design of organs with those of other products, we can appreciate that, pound for pound, the pipe organ is one of the best buys around.  The organ committee's choice should stand well beyond the lifetime of committee members, as a well-built pipe organ will last many, many years.  Perhaps money spent on a pipe organ is a sacrifice today, but, both economically and artistically, it is surely a sound investment for the future.