Representatives of the Musicians Union and Equity are to
give evidence tomorrow, Tuesday 11 November 2008, at the Culture Committee
inquiry into the Licensing Act 2003.
The session commences at 10.30am, and will be held at Committee Room 15
in the Palace of Westminster. It is open to the public: http://www.parliament.uk/about/visiting/committees.cfm
Feargal Sharkey, Chief Executive of UK Music, is also to be a witness.
Others include the British Beer & Pub Association, the British Institute
of Innkeeping, and the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers.
Sharkey is there, presumably, for his experience as chair of the now defunct
Live Music Forum. UK Music is a commercial music industry lobbying group,
and currently leads the music industry campaign to extend copyright in
sound recordings. Since the Licensing Act 2003 has nothing to do with
music copyright enforcement, there is no obvious reason why Sharkey should
attend in his capacity as CE of UK Music: http://www.ukmusic.org/page/about-us
In the summer of 2007 both the MU and the LMF publicly called on the government
to implement further entertainment licensing exemptions for small gigs
as soon as possible. A figure of 100 was suggested as the maximum attendance
for exempt performances.
If past form is any guide, Sharkey will claim that predictions of catastrophe
for live music in the wake of the Licensing Act never materialised. He
forgets that such concerns were first widely publicised when the original
Licensing Bill was published in November 2002. That Bill made all secular
music in churches illegal unless licensed, had no exemption for incidental
live music, and all musicians faced a potential criminal prosecution if
they played in an unlicensed venue without first checking that it was
appropriately licensed. Concessions in these areas were only won in the
teeth of government opposition and with the support of Liberal Democrat
and Conservative Peers in the Lords.
It is also worth remembering that, despite strong opposition support at
the time, the government shot down a proposed small gigs exemption on
the grounds that the police thought all live music was a public order
problem - a view recently echoed by Councillor Chris White, Chair of the
Board of Culture, Tourism and Sport at the Local Government Association:
'Live music is, like anything else which is an attraction in licensed
premises, potentially a public order problem,' he began. 'If you start
from that point of view, then it becomes clear what you must do...'
[Culture Committee oral evidence session 14 October 2008]