The Live Music Forum



1st July - BBC Radio 4 The Today Programme

The Today programme yesterday (30 June 2005) leaves no doubt that the licensing minister is misleading the public. Here's a link to an MP3 file:

Purnell's claims that having live music under the new regime is just a 'tick box', 'much easier' and that 'you won't have to pay any more' are false. Indeed, whatever the cost of possible licence conditions, or legal representation at a public hearing to consider local objections, landlords 'ticking the box' immediately incur the cost of the required public advertisement declaring their intention to host live music.

The 6th August deadline means that licensees have 37 days from today in which to complete and submit their applications to convert, or convert and vary, their existing licences. According to the most optimistic estimates, 80% have yet to do this.

Variation will be required for most bars and restaurants intending to provide regular live music - even for solo, unamplified performers. But given the problems highlighted by the Today programme, and the log-jam of last minute applications, what proportion of licensed premises will risk a problematic variation? 20%? 40%?

The vast majority of pubs, bars and restaurants do not have public entertainment licences. So, even if 40% make variation applications for live music before 6th August, and even if they all get the permission they seek (unlikely), would it be acceptable that 60% of such venues could not promote a gig by one musician, except under a Temporary Event Notice not more than 12 times a year? Is it acceptable that organising such entertainment without a licence should be a criminal offence, punishable by potentially high fines and a prison sentence?

One voice notable for its absence in the Today reports was that of the Musicians' Union. The BBC told me, however, that in preparing the Today 'two in a bar' pieces, the MU had been asked for its view.

Hamish Birchall