The Live Music Forum
Hamish Birchall Bulletin
Tuesday 18th December 2007 - Now the good news...
With the publication yesterday of the bad news that live gigs had decreased in the wake of the Licensing Act, the DCMS smoke machine is off again with 'New plans to help live music thrive':
The headline is £500k towards a few new rehearsal rooms around the country - the government's response to one of the Live Music Forum's 28 recommendations published on 04 July. Further down, a little more flesh is put on the bones of their commitment to explore an additional exemption for small gigs. In their detailed response to the LMF report, which reads like a manifesto for the micro-management of live music, t he government graciously accepts 'the spirit' of this key recommendation. However, it warns that there cannot be a 'blanket exemption' and restates the plan to consult on possible solutions (para 19):
Back in the press release, culture secretary James Purnell adds: 'Clearly we'd only be looking at exemptions for events that don't cause public nuisance or compromise public safety.'
In the light of that observation, let's review what the Licensing Act 2003 meant for small gigs:
The regulation of live music through licensing was dramatically increased on the grounds of controlling public safety, crime, and noise, including for the first time school concerts for family and friends (usually considered private and exempt under the old regime), one or two musicians in a bar (indeed almost anywhere public), and even small private concerts seeking to raise money for good causes.
Maximum penalty for unlicensed performance, where a licence is required: £20,000 and six months in jail.
At the same time:
All bars converting their old alcohol licence to the new premises licence in 2005 were given automatic permission to play recorded music, which includes hosting DJs; but their long-standing exemption for one or two live musicians was abolished;
The blanket exemption for big screen broadcast entertainment was maintained, despite police objections at the time citing a link with disorder in pubs.
The government has never produced any research linking live music to widespread disorder, noise or crime. So much for evidence-based policy.