The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Thursday 9th July 2009 - Musicians in thrall to caterers

Caterers' contempt for musicians is legendary. After performing for some lavish banquet, musicians are often led away into a dingy annex for a plate of stale sandwiches and a packet of crisps. Even if the contract stipulates a hot meal this is no guarantee - a fact which leads to many tense confrontations between bandleaders and the head chef.

How ironic then that access to employment for thousands of musicians now lies in the hands of local government officials trained not in the arts, but in... food science.

Perhaps that explains why the Musicians Union is somewhat reticent about its participation with the LACORS live music working group. The union has made no public announcement about this important development. LACORS, by contrast, issued this statement on 5th June:

'A working group has been set up to promote the options for putting on small scale live music in licensed premises. At its first meeting the group agreed to focus on promoting examples where premises have made use of the ?incidental music? provisions in the Licensing Act 2003 i.e. where music is ancillary to the main purpose of visiting the venue such as restaurants and bistros. These case studies will be available during the summer, and will complement the Musicians? Union practical advice and guidance to putting on live music.

'Moving forward the group will also be looking to maximise the benefits of DCMS? forthcoming ?minor variations? process, due to be implemented in July, which will allow venues to apply to add live music to their licence quickly and at low cost. The working group is comprised of representatives from the Musicians? Union, the British Beer & Pub Association, LACORS, the LGA, DCMS and is jointly chaired by Mark du Val, Director of LACORS and Danny Longstaff, Chair of the MU Executive Committee.'

LACORS (Local Authority Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services) is of course the shadowy quango that has consistently and successfully opposed new exemptions within the Licensing Act for small-scale gigs. Implicitly they support a regime which criminalises a piano in a bar or a small private fund-raising concert in a school, unless first licensed. The rationale for this position is, they say, to protect the public. In reality, it is more about administrative convenience and jobs for council licensing officers.

Mark du Val is a food science graduate and former environmental health officer. Charlotte Meller, LACORS contact officer for the working group, also has a background in food science and previously worked for the Food and Drink Federation.


Hamish Birchall