The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Tuesday 19th June 2007 -Lords and watchdog criticise DCMS/MORI live music stats

Last week the Market Research Society (MRS) found that MORI had again fallen short of professional standards in the use of its live music research by DCMS. DCMS has apparently refused to accept the finding, leading to further criticism in the House of Lords.

This is the second time in two years that MRS has found MORI wanting . MORI's research is provided to DCMS on condition that press releases citing it must first be vetted by MORI.

In 2005, MRS found that MORI had allowed DCMS to make a 'misleading' headline live music claim, based on the first MORI live music survey. MRS concluded that the 1.7m live gigs a year claimed for 'bars, clubs and restaurants' should in fact have been 1.3m, and the 1.7m estimate was for all venue categories, not a sub-set implied in the DCMS press release of 25 August 2004. 

DCMS responded by covertly adding the words 'and other venues' to the former licensing minister's quote in its online archived press release, thereby making the 1.7m estimate refer to the whole sample. However, under pressure DCMS finally published an acknowledgement and clarification of the changes made, although it did not mention the 1.3m gig estimate correction by MRS. See:

This time, in a decision dated 14 June 2007, MRS has found that a key DCMS claim of 07 December 2006 was 'incorrect' rather than misleading (a fine distinction); specifically the claim that the latest MORI research showed 'a quarter of premises now have a licence to put on live music'. See the second bullet point in the DCMS press release 'Encouraging signs for small venues':

According to MRS, however, while MORI has since published an amendment of sorts on its website, DCMS has refused to amend the press statement on its website 'as it believes the statement to be neither incorrect nor misleading'.

MRS notes that its Quality Commitment Investigations Committee (QCIC) requested MORI to publish 'in an appropriate forum the relevant technical details of the project to correct any incorrect or misleading reporting.' The correction is as follows:

'In the DCMS press release of 7 December 2006 it is noted that "a quarter (25 per cent) of premises now have a licence to put on music for the first time." This statement is based on the finding that a quarter (25%) of establishments which did not have a Public Entertainment Licence nor put on music under the old licensing regime now do have a licence that allows them to play live music.'

This can be viewed on MORI's website at,

To my mind this amendment does nothing to make clear that under the old licensing regime most if not all the venues in this survey could have lawfully put on live music anyway, even if only with one or two musicians under the 'two in a bar' entertainment licence exemption.

The MRS finding, and DCMS refusal to accept it, was yesterday criticised in the House of Lords. In a debate on the Statistics Registration and Service Bill, Lord Newby commented:

'... last week for the second time, MORI had a Market Research Society decision against it in terms of the way in which statistics, which it had produced for DCMS on live music venues, had been used by DCMS. The argument was that DCMS had misrepresented what MORI had done. The Market Research Society found against MORI, at which point DCMS refused to accept the finding or to do anything about it.

'When the Bill, if amended as proposed, comes into force—perhaps the Minister can confirm whether I am right about this—and the Statistics Board hears about such a situation, it may think that is not very satisfactory and that the statistics are not national statistics—I would be amazed if they were. Under Clause 22, the board would go to the appropriate Minister at the DCMS and say, “Please, we would like to make a request that these be recategorised as national statistics so that we can assess them to see whether we agree with the Market Research Society”. The Minister may or may not agree; the Bill sets out what happens in those circumstances. That is pretty inflexible. Without going through the formal procedure, which requires statements to Parliament and heaven knows what, the board should be able to have a quick look at how DCMS dealt with the statistics. If necessary, there would be a rap over the knuckles and it would be dealt with quickly, expeditiously and, I hope, flexibly.'

See Hansard 18 June 2007:

Hamish Birchall