The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Thursday 26th October 2006 - MU follow-up licensing survey flawed

Yesterday I reported that the Musicians Union (MU) was doing follow-up research into the impact of the Licensing Act.  Having now seen their latest survey questionnaire, I do not see how this alone could yield any r obust conclusions about the effect of the Act on members' employment. There are several key problems:

1. Like its predecessor, the survey asks members about venues that have stopped or started promoting live music this year. As with the first survey, the union had subsequently to check members' claims. This involved contacting those members that had identified venues, and then contacting the venues themselves. It turned out that much of the information that members had originally provided was unreliable. The union will have to do that follow-up work again with this second survey.

2. The proportion of members who returned the first survey questionnaire was extremely low: about 3% nationally, and only a fraction of 1 per cent in the case of the London region. This is too low to allow statistically robust conclusions. The return rate of this second survey would have to improve significantly to change this.

3. In this second survey, respondents have to say 'yes' to further contact from the union. Many will not tick that box, further limiting the final sample size of those whose claims about venues that have started or stopped promoting live music as a result of the Act can be validated.

4. The second survey includes questions that may reveal members' perception of the Act's impact on live music, but that is not hard evidence of gigs lost or gained directly as a result of the Act.

It would have been better to combine research into members' perceptions of the Act with checks on the public licensing registers of a sample of local authorities. Public licensing registers should show all premises with a live music permission, and how many Temporary Event Notices for live music have been applied for and granted. This could have been compared with public entertainment licence data in the same area from previous years, which the councils will hold. There is still time for the union to do this before DCMS publishes the latest MORI live music findings.

Hamish Birchall