The Live Music Forum
Hamish Birchall Bulletin
Tuesday 1st May 2007 -
Licensing petition at number 1
The live music/licensing petition has reached number 1 in the list of over 7,400 petitions on the Number 10 website with over 71,000 signatures:
Ministers must be feeling a sense of deja vu. Why, after spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on licensing spin, has their 'much better for live music' message failed? Almost exactly four years ago another e-petition opposed to the live music provisions of the then Licensing Bill, with over 100,000 names, was presented to Number 10.
The prime minister responded then by claiming the Bill's unpopularity was down to 'misinformation'. But in the four years that have passed, it is the 'simpler' and 'cost nothing extra' claims that have been exposed as false by the Better Regulation Commission; the Market Research Society ruled that the DCMS headline 'flourishing' live music statistic was misleadingly reported; DCMS was subsequently caught trying to rewrite history - its own press release - by covertly and retrospectively changing the then licensing minister's misleading quote; and 40% of venues that could have had one or two live musicians have now lost any automatic entitlement to live music.
Above all, it is the totalitarian bid for control of the mildest music-making as against the exemption for big screen entertainment that has caught the public imagination. This has now entered popular folklore with the huge success of Show of Hands' song 'Roots'.
The current live music petition founder, Dominic Cronin, said:
"For the petition to reach such a prominent position shows that very many people regard the current licensing regime as inappropriate. Many thanks to all who have signed so far. The Prime Minister himself has performed music in public, so must understand that such activities ought not to be unnecessarily restricted. I hope he takes the petition at face value and does something about the problem. Prime Minister - over to you!"
But unless the prime minister is prepared to admit his mistakes and amend the Act itself, his cultural legacy will be that, for the first time, while big screen entertainment was favoured, providing a piano in a bar became a potential criminal offence.