The Live Music Bill aims to make it easier for musicians to perform live by proposing a Licensing Act exemption for venues putting on music for 200 or less people and reinstating the two-in-the-bar rule, and has the backing of the Musicians’ Union, Equity, the National Campaign for the Arts and UK Music.
Lord Clement-Jones argues that the changes proposed in the Bill would boost local pub trade, and points out pubs don’t need a licence to show a live football match on TV. “Does the Government really think people who listen to live music are more of a threat to public order than football fans?” he asks.
“Small venues are vitally important to Britain’s creative culture,” Lord Clement-Jones adds. “Removing the ‘two-in-a-bar’ rule means you can’t even have a pianist in a restaurant without having to go through the palaver of applying for a licence.
“Many of our most successful musicians got their first break gigging in pubs, cafes or student unions,” Lord Clement-Jones continues, “but the Government is denying this opportunity to young musicians today by making it costly and time-consuming for small venues to apply for a licence. We risk suffocating our live music scene in red tape.”
On December 31 2009, the Government announced a 3-month consultation on its own proposals to exempt venues with audiences of less than 100. But no specific exemption for schools, hospitals and colleges is proposed, nor would the ‘two-in-the-bar’ rule be re-instated.
As Lord Clement-Jones points out, “The Government have moved slowly on this issue which suggests they are not serious about changing anything. The timing of the consultation means it will finish just before the election, with no opportunity to actually do anything. The only real chance to change the law is by supporting my Live Music Bill.”
Comments in support of the Live Music Bill:
"The Musicians' Union is very pleased with this bill, as it supports the recommendations that were made by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee last year which were in support of live music".
John Smith, Musicians’ Union
“There is no doubt that the Licensing Act 2003 continues to stifle small-scale live music throughout the UK. This leaves our society and culture significantly poorer – not to mention our economy – and is potentially disastrous for the UK’s next generation of musical talent, most of whom will hone their craft in pubs, clubs and bars, and is denying jobbing musicians the opportunity to earn a living. The common sense proposals of Lord Clement-Jones’ Live Music Bill would address these issues in one stroke and have the full support of UK Music.”
Feargal Sharkey, UK Music
"The Government's Licensing Act has really been seen as a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It has had a detrimental effect on musicians performing in small venues and the National Campaign for the Arts is pleased to support Lord Clement-Jones' Live Music Bill, which we believe will go a long way towards addressing the issue."
Louise de Winter, National Campaign for the Arts
“Equity supports the Live Music Bill and calls on all members of all parties to do the same.”
Stephen Spence, Equity
Questions & Answers
Q. Will the live music exemption for small premises in the Live Music Bill reduce local resident’s ability to object to live music being performed in a venue?
A. No, the live music exemption is conditional which means local residents can make complaints that would potentially trigger a review of a premises license. A licensing authority can then impose conditions on a license if such complaints are upheld by a review and in extreme circumstances a license can still be revoked.
Q. Why is an exemption necessary when a licensee can already apply to vary their license for live music provision?
A. There is a banding system for a variation of a premises licence, based on the business rates, which would enable premises to apply for live music. But this process is almost the same as a new application in terms of cost, requires 28 days public advertisement at the applicant's cost and there is the potential for costly conditions. The Government recently brought in a new “minor variations” amendment which it claims creates a cheaper, simpler application process. But we believe that many local authorities are unlikely to consider an application for live music to be a minor variation. Indeed, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport itself has warned that many applications for live music will not qualify. In any case, places that typically do not hold a premises licence, such hospitals, schools and private homes are ineligible for the minor variations process.
Q. Will reducing the regulatory burden on performances of live music result in an increase in crime and disorder at such events?
A. There is no evidence to suggest that live music gigs are of greater concern with regard to crime and disorder that any other form of public gathering. Indeed one of the specific recommendations made by the Cultural, Media & Sport Committee was that the Statutory Guidance, issued under the Act, should be reviewed and reworded to “remove the overt linkage of live music with public disorder”. By way of contrast, the Licensing Act 2003 contains an explicit exemption for broadcast entertainment. This suggests that the broadcasting of a football match in a pub is considered less of a threat to potential crime and disorder than live music, when in fact the evidence tends to point the other way.
Q. Will the Live Music Bill mean that live music can be performed at anytime, anywhere and with no further restrictions?
A. No. The Live Music Bill is very specific about the sort of venues covered by an exemption for live music and the times at which unlicensed live music can be performed. The venue must have a licence for the sale of alcohol and have a permitted capacity of not more than 200 people. The live music can also only take place between 08:00 and 24:00 on the same day. Pubs and clubs that make use of the exemption will still need a PRS licence if musicians are performing songs or music that is still within copyright. Existing health and safety and environmental noise nuisance laws for such performances also still apply. A small gig in a bar is already covered by such legislation. The exemption for up to two performers will however mean that live music that falls under this can be performed anywhere without the need for a licence under the Licensing Act.
Q. Why are you restricting the exemption to small scale venues?
A. The conclusions of the DCMS select committee and the departments own research indicates that it is small scale venues whose primary purpose is not the provision of live music that have suffered a decline in live music performances under the Licensing Act. We believe that live music in this context should be treated as a normal activity in such venues, regulated by existing legislation. Specialist live music venues and festivals have not experienced a decline in the way pubs and clubs have. As mentioned in the previous question, the exemption for up to two performers will mean live music that falls under this exemption can be performed anywhere without the need for a licence.
Q. Why do hospitals, schools and colleges need an exemption?
A. The Licensing Act as drafted does not contain specific exemptions for the performance of live music in hospitals, schools and colleges. This has meant that there have been examples of school plays, sixth form battle of the bands and music in hospital wards which have been caught by the bureaucracy of the Licensing Act. The Live Music Bill ensures that these innocuous events are free of unnecessary red tape.