The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Wednesday 25th October 2006 - DCMS postpones publication of latest MORI live music research

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has postponed publication of MORI's second round of live music research.

MORI was due to make a presentation to the Live Music Forum (LMF) about three weeks ago, but DCMS also cancelled this at short notice. A DCMS spokesperson explained:

'...our decision to postpone the presentation by MORI on the live music survey was based on our desire to ensure that the data were subject to suitable quality assurance procedures, compared  with and contrasted  to evidence from complementary data sources, and accompanied by adequate interpretation and commentary. This would not have been possible had we stuck to our original plan. Our decision was in accordance with the principles set out in the Protocol on Release Practices and, in particular, the condition that accompanying commentary and analysis should be judged to be fit for purpose.'

Could this be mandarin-speak for 'the data doesn't look good'? We should know in December, when DCMS now 'expect' to publish the latest MORI findings.

On 24 November the Licensing Act will have been in force for one year. Ministers said it would be 'much better' for live music, but evidence to support their optimism, particularly for live music as a secondary activity in pubs, bars and restaurants, has so far failed to materialise.

Without a live music permission on their new premises licence, pubs, bars and restaurants are restricted to 12 gigs a year under the Temporary Event Notice scheme, and 'incidental music'.  Under the old regime such venues could host one or two musicians if and when desired without an entertainment licence. One key indicator of the merit, or otherwise, of ministers' claims will be the proportion that have a live music permission. My own view is that the national figure may be around 50%. DCMS could have obtained accurate data from local authorities months ago - but, if they have, they are keeping quiet about it.

Despite extensive enquiries of its 31,000 members, as far as I am aware the Musicians Union (MU) has yet to publish the name of any venue that has started live music for the first time as a result of the new Act. About a month ago it did publish the names of two venues in London that had increased their provision of live music, but omitted to mention several well-documented examples of gigs lost. A second round of MU research, currently underway, may yet provide more evidence one way or the other. The MU has also so far failed to publish any evidence in support of its claim that live music is currently 'booming' in the UK, a claim made in their letter of 12 September rejecting a motion signed by 112 members. The motion called on the union to oppose the Licensing Act as it applied to casual gigs and members' employment in small venues (see my circular of 21 September 2006).


Feargal Sharkey  is putting the final touches to the LMF report on the Licensing Act, including recommendations for improvement. This is due for presentation to ministers by the end of the year. On 24 April, Feargal said of this report '...  if [the] government accept all of our recommendations I will be slightly disappointed coz it might be an indication that we weren't thinking radically enough.' [BBC Radio 1 Live Music Debate]

The Better Regulation Commission (BRC) is currently seeking clarification from DCMS on what the Department proposes to do in response to the BRC's criticisms of the Act and its implementation, including specifically the 'incidental music' exemption. On 10 April, the BRC published a report that was strongly critical of the Licensing Act's implementation:

DCMS has almost completed its ' simplification plan ', which may include proposals for cutting licensing red-tape - but don't hold your breath. See: The plan should be published in November. All government departments must produce a simplification plan as part of the government's promise to cut red tape and unnecessary regulation.

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has published a ' Music Manifesto '. Among other things it seeks to 'put singing back at the heart of all primary school musical activity through the creation of nationwide singing campaign leading up to the 2012 Olympics': See:

The Manifesto doesn't mention the Licensing Act once, as far as I can tell using Adobe Acrobat search. This must be an oversight. Performance is a key part of music education, and where performance is public, the entertainment licensing implications must be considered. Such an omission is all the more strange because Marc Jaffrey, Music Manifesto Champion, has been an observer at the LMF since its inception. He should be well aware that schools, and any other place that is not specifially exempt, must be licensed for public performances, and for private performances if these are raising money for charity, or otherwise seeking to make a profit.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) launched its new fire safety legislation on 01 October: The relevance to entertainment licensing that it disapplies fire safety conditions imposed on premises licences. See Article 43 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005: New powers should have come into force this month to control noisy licensed premises between 11pm and 7am. In June the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced that the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act would give local authorities the power to issue on-the-spot fines of up to £500 to those responsible: Defra was unable to confirm today whether these powers had actually come into effect.

Hamish Birchall