The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Wednesday 25th July 2007 - Licensing Guidance debate 15 Oct - LMF defunct?

The House of Lords debate on the revised Licensing Guidance, forced on the government by the Liberal Democrats, looks set to take place on Monday evening 15 October 2007.

By way of preparation the Lib Dems have set up an email address for members of the public to send examples of problems caused by the revised Guidance, published by DCMS on 28 June, or indeed problems caused by the Licensing Act itself:

A Lib Dem source said: 'We are primarily interested in the new guidance and any specific points about the old guidance ought to refer to comparisons with the new guidance, rather than examples of how the old guidance was defective.'

Commenting on the revised Guidance in The Stage today, Lord Clement-Jones, Lib Dem culture spokesperson, said:

“The government hasn't really taken the opportunity to simplify things. It's 140 pages of guidance - it's a very good doorstop. But it doesn't cure all the idiocies of last year, which have been highlighted by the campaigners. And I don't think the government is correct in saying that that the Licensing Act 2003 has encouraged live music. If anything, it has made councils much more wary. People have cancelled events, good events.”

Meanwhile, it looks as though DCMS has quietly disbanded the Live Music Forum - before the important follow-up survey of live music. Feargal Sharkey is now the 'former' chair of the LMF, and the LMF has held its 'final' meeting.

The only survey that attempted to measure the amount of live music taking place under the old licensing regime was the MORI live music survey of August 2004. DCMS notoriously misreported the findings, claiming in a press release of 25 August 2004 that 1.7m live gigs a years were taking place in 'bars, clubs and restaurants', and this indicated a 'flourishing' live gig scene. These sweeping claims were widely reported in the national press. But some months later, after an investigation, the Market Research Society ruled the 1.7m estimate misleading, since it was for all venues surveyed, not just for bars, clubs and restaurants. MRS also reduced the 1.7m gig estimate to 1.3m for gigs in bars, clubs and restaurants. DCMS has never publicly acknowledged this revision, although under pressure it later published some clarifications above the original press release:

Last Tuesday, 23 July, DCMS issued a press release announcing that Feargal Sharkey, the 'former chair of the Live Music Forum', had been tasked with 'setting up a network of rehearsal studios for budding musicians':

The Live Music Forum section of the DCMS website, last updated on 16 July, notes that the LMF held its 'final' meeting on 16 April 2007:

But curiously the webpage also reports that in July DCMS commissioned BMRB Social Research to carry out the '2007 Survey of Live Music staged in England and Wales' - the follow-up study to the MORI live music survey of 2004. Results will, apparently, be published this November.

Lord Clement-Jones, the Lib Dem culture spokesperson, has tabled a Parliamentary question in an attempt to find out what is going on:

"To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the current status of the Live Music Forum and what plans are there for future meetings of the Forum following publication of their report "Findings and Recommendations" on 4th July 2007".

Hamish Birchall