The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Thursday 7th December 2006 - Latest MORI survey 'encouraging' for small venues claims Government Forum

DCMS claims that the latest MORI live music survey found 61% of smaller venues now have a live music authorisation:

Licensing minister Shaun Woodward said the results were 'encouraging'. 

Feargal Sharkey shared his optimism: 'This picture is encouraging and confirms much of the evidence that the forum has uncovered. We know that the majority of venues – large and small – can now put on live music and that's fantastic news.'

But this is, of course, mostly spin.

The fact is that under the old rules 100% of venues with an alcohol licence could have one or two musicians whenever they were open. Now it would seem that around 40% have lost that automatic live music entitlement. And, of the 60% or so of venues that can now have more than two musicians, about half say they are unlikely to do so (with the notable exception of student unions).

There are good reasons to question the validity of the DCMS claims. Here a just a few:

1. Bars in densely populated areas tend to have the most difficulty getting an entertainment licence for live music. Reasons include residents' objections and local authority licence conditions. The overall 61% live music permission estimate probably conceals a lower proportion for licensed premises in densely populated areas (with a higher proportion in less densely populated areas). This could have implications for social inclusion policies.  London was the only city specifically identified in the survey, as distinct from other areas that were regionally defined.

2. The new survey did not ask licensees whether they had actually implemented licence conditions for live music such as the installation of noise limiters, or providing door supervisers. Unless all licence conditions are implemented, the provision of live music remains illegal.

3. DCMS has made it clear that this latest MORI research is not the follow-up study to the first MORI live music survey of 2004. Despite this, DCMS has made comparisons with the first study's data. I believe these comparisons are invalid.  Firstly, the new survey's venue categories differ from those in the 2004 study. 'Public Houses' was a distinct venue category in the first survey, but in the new survey this has changed to 'Public houses, wine bars and nightclubs'.  Nightclubs, of course, almost by definition had public entertainment licences for music and dancing; the majority of pubs, by contrast, did not hold PELs. Once again it is likely to prove impossible to tease out the statistics for pubs alone. Secondly, even where the venue categories are the same, their proportions differ from those in the first survey, in some cases by quite a wide margin.

4. DCMS claim, for example, that 'of the small proportion (7 per cent) of venues that used to operate under the ‘two in a bar rule', around 70 per cent now have live music licences'.  But the first MORI survey included a large proportion of 'Members Clubs and Associations', 21% in fact, that were exempt from any required to hold a public entertainment licence.  Asking them whether they operated under the 'two in a bar rule' was always irrelevant.  This suggests not only that the original 7% was a significant underestimate, but the 70% is also inaccurate.

DCMS has, this time, published the full Ipsos-MORI survey report alongside today's press release. You can download the PDF files using the link below - but beware: there are about 150 pages to read:

Hamish Birchall