The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Wedenesday 12th December 2007 - Final live music research due 17 December

The concluding survey of the impact of the Licensing Act 2003 on live music is to be published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on Monday 17 December - one day before Parliament goes into Christmas recess:

However, in a written answer from Monday 10 December, Culture Secretary James Purnell said that the final evaluation will not be made until the new year (see Hansard extract below).  This despite the fact that, according to r eliable sources, ministers have already had several weeks to digest the DCMS report into the latest research.

The survey, carried out by British Market Research Board (BMRB), is intended to be the follow-up to the 'benchmark' MORI live music research of August 2004.  At that time DCMS notoriously claimed that the MORI survey indicated a 'flourishing' music scene with 1.7m gigs a year in bars, clubs and restaurants whose main business was not live music.  However, this claim was later ruled misleading by the Market Research Society, which revised the gig estimate in those venues down to 1.3m a year.

Also on Monday 10 December, during an exchange with Conservative MP John Whittingdale, James Purnell said that the Live Music Forum (LMF) had found a 'broadly neutral' impact on live music (see Hansard extract below).

Unsurprisingly, Purnell did not mention that this was due in part to the inclusion in the research to date of a significant proportion of venues that had a public entertainment licence for live music before the new legislation came into force.  Converting that permission into the new licence was a relatively simple process.  Mr Purnell also failed to mention that the final LMF report to ministers of 04 July found that there was a negative impact on very small gigs, and that the 2006 MORI research into the impact on smaller venues found that about 40% of bars, pubs and restaurants had lost their previous automatic entitlement to one or two musicians (but were still free to host DJs and big screen broadcast entertainment).

In a separate music development, Pete Wishart of the SNP and former member of the band Runrig, has tabled a Private Members Bill seeking to extend copyright in sound recordings by 50 years. See this report from the SNP website:

This is clearly the focus of music industry lobbying, despite the fact that the government has already indicated its opposition to the idea.

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Hansard extracts from Monday 10 December 2007:

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con): At the time of the passage of the Licensing Act, the Government dismissed warnings that one of its consequences would be to damage the performance of live music in town centres and elsewhere. The Secretary of State will be aware that Live Music Forum has concluded that the Act is having that effect, so will he now consider making changes to it, as recommended by the forum, to ensure that live music continues to flourish throughout Britain?

James Purnell: The hon. Gentleman was along with the Leader of the Opposition a great supporter and advocate of the Licensing Act. We welcome his support, although I notice that we have still not heard from the Opposition whether they are disowning their leader or not. The hon. Gentleman is slightly exaggerating the consequences of the Act that the Live Music Forum found; it said that they had been broadly neutral. Clearly, we would like them to be positive, which is why we are looking positively at the forum's recommendations with a view to coming forward with proposals shortly. We have also asked Feargal Sharkey to lead on the identification of a network of rehearsal spaces to do exactly that.

Written Questions:

12. Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what assessment he has made of the effects of the Licensing Act 2003. [172208]

James Purnell: As the Prime Minister reiterated in July, we are monitoring and reviewing the impact of the Act and have been since it came into force. We expect to complete an evaluation of the impact of the Act in the new year.

17. Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what assessment he has made of the effects of the Licensing Act 2003 on the performance of live music. [172213]

Mr. Sutcliffe: My Department established the Live Music Forum in 2004 to assess, among other things, the impact of the Licensing Act 2003 on the performance of live music. In its report and recommendations, published in July 2007, the forum concluded that the impact of the Act had been broadly neutral. The results of the second stage of our own research study into the current provision of live music will be published on the Department's website later this month.


Hamish Birchall