The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Tuesday 14th Ocrober 2008 - No delay in small gigs exemption says minister

Government licensing spokesperson Lord Davies of Oldham claimed yesterday that there had been no delay in the development of exemptions in the Licensing Act 2003 for small-scale performances.

Lord Davies' astonishing claim came in response to the latest round of entertainment licensing questions tabled by Lord Clement-Jones on 29 September (see full Q&A below).

Why astonishing ? On 07 May Lord Davies said the long-promised DCMS consultation on small gigs exemptions would take place 'by the summer'. On 22 July his position had changed: the consultation would now take place in 'the autumn'.

Points to note:

The DCMS Live Music Forum, whose remit included monitoring the impact of the Licensing Act, was disbanded in July 2007 after it recommended new exemptions for small gigs 'as a matter of some urgency', and several months before the final DCMS research into the impact of the Licensing Act on live music. In June 2007 the Musicians' Union also publicly called on the government to implement a small gigs exemption as soon as possible. By that time both organisations had already monitored the impact of the Act for nearly two years.

Feargal Sharkey, former Chair of the LMF, has since implied that he was never particularly keen to take on his LMF role [Perspectives, 'A Good Start', CEO of British Music Rights Feargal Sharkey, LINK magazine, Spring 2008, p50]. Sharkey is now Chief Executive Officer of UK Music, since 26 September the new name for British Music Rights:

Lord Davies' answer relating to the 2007 BMRB live music survey, confirms suspicions that data on which DCMS based its position that the Act was in no way responsible for the 5% fall in live gigs, is unreliable. The DCMS position was based on reasons given by interviewees for either starting or stopped live music. This was a sub-set of about 11% of the total sample of 2,251 interviews. It turns out that about 40% of interviewees were not working at the venue when the new licensing regime came into force in 2005. Also, we have no idea whether or not those that were working at the venue in 2005 had any role in applying for the new licence. Lastly, just because an interviewee was responsible for booking bands it does not necessarily mean, as the minister suggests, that they would know about changes to their licence, or the reasons for any changes.

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Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether all members of the former Live Music Forum are kept informed of discussions about entertainment licensing exemptions for small-scale performances of live music which are taking place with the former chairman, Mr Feargal Sharkey, and the Musicians Union. [HL5367]

Lord Davies of Oldham: No. The Live Music Forum (LMF) was established in 2004 to help maximise the take-up of reforms in the Licensing Act 2003 relating to the provision of live music, to monitor the impact of the Act on live music and to promote live music performance. The forum met 13 times, the final meeting being held on 16 April 2007. The forum's recommendations were published on 4 July 2007, after which it disbanded. The Secretary of State recently held a meeting with Feargal Sharkey in his capacity as the newly appointed chief executive of UK Music.

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have determined from the survey of live music carried out in 2007 by the British Market Research Board on behalf of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (a) the proportion of interviewees who were responsible for the conversion of their venues' justices' on-licence to the new premises licence during 2005; (b) the proportion of those interviewees who started or stopped having live music since the new regime came into force who were responsible for the conversion of their venues' old justices' on-licence to the new premises licence in 2005; and (c) the proportion of interviewees who were working in the same venue since the beginning of 2005. [HL5368]

Lord Davies of Oldham: As the survey did not ask any direct questions concerning the responsibility for licence conversion, it is impossible to determine directly the proportion of interviewees who fell into that category. However, we did ensure where relevant that all respondents were responsible for the provision of live music at that venue. This means they would have had knowledge of any changes to their licence in relation to live music. The survey did not ask about the length of time the interviewee had been working at the venue but did ask a related question about the length of time they had been responsible for live music at the venue. The contractors reported that 60 per cent of respondents had held this responsibility for more than two years. This may be an underestimate as some of the 40 per cent who did not hold the responsibility may have worked there for longer than two years in some other capacity.

Licensing: Live Music

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why there was a delay in the development of exemptions within the Licensing Act 2003 for small-scale performances of live music of more than a year after the Live Music Forum and the Musicians Union called for the implementation of such exemptions as a matter of urgency. [HL5366]

Lord Davies of Oldham: There was no delay. The DCMS has been developing options for consultation to exempt low impact (de minimis) licensing activities from the scope of the 2003 Act. The Government do not undertake amendments to primary legislation lightly, particularly in the case of legislation which was only brought fully into force within the past three years. As part of that work, we are considering exemptions for small and incidental live music events, taking into account the recommendations made by the Live Music Forum. Officials have had discussions with stakeholders, including the Musicians' Union, which aim to develop exemptions that can benefit live music without jeopardising the licensing objectives. We hope to publish a consultation document in the autumn, and subject to the outcome, to have the exemptions in place by spring 2009.

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will publish the names of all members of the Licensing Advisory Group. [HL5365]

Lord Davies of Oldham: The DCMS Licensing Advisory Group comprises representatives of the following organisations:
Action with Communities in Rural England; Alcohol Concern; Arts Council England; Association of Chief Police Officers; Association of Convenience Stores; Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers; British Hospitality Association; British Institute of Innkeeping; British Beer & Pub Association; British Marine Federation; British Retail Consortium; Business In Sport and Leisure;Chartered Institute of Environmental Health; Cinema Exhibitors Association;The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform;Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations; Federation of Small Businesses; The Guild of Master Victuallers; Justices' Clerks Society; Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services; London Councils;Paterson's; Magistrates Association; Musicians' Union; Noctis; and Working Men's Club and Institute Union/Committee of Registered Clubs' Associations.

Since the advisory group comprises organisations not individuals, representation at each meeting varies. Not all organisations attend meetings on a regular basis.

Licensing: Circuses

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

What consideration they have given to exempting circus performances from the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003. [HL5369]

Lord Davies of Oldham: We have consulted circuses directly about their experience of the Licensing Act 2003, and Ministers and officials have met circus representatives on several occasions to hear their concerns. While I am not convinced that licensable activities should be exempt simply because they are carried on within a circus, I do recognise the particular regulatory burdens placed on travelling tented circuses because they move from site to site. We are looking at how we can simplify aspects of the application processes to relieve some of the burden and have also agreed to look at the feasibility of alternative licensing arrangements which better reflect the nature of travelling entertainment performed at multiple sites.



Hamish Birchall