The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Monday 11th November 2008 - MU & Equity to give evidence at licensing inquiry tomorrow

Representatives of the Musicians Union and Equity are to give evidence tomorrow, Tuesday 11 November 2008, at the Culture Committee inquiry into the Licensing Act 2003.

The session commences at 10.30am, and will be held at Committee Room 15 in the Palace of Westminster. It is open to the public:

Feargal Sharkey, Chief Executive of UK Music, is also to be a witness. Others include the British Beer & Pub Association, the British Institute of Innkeeping, and the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers.

Sharkey is there, presumably, for his experience as chair of the now defunct Live Music Forum. UK Music is a commercial music industry lobbying group, and currently leads the music industry campaign to extend copyright in sound recordings. Since the Licensing Act 2003 has nothing to do with music copyright enforcement, there is no obvious reason why Sharkey should attend in his capacity as CE of UK Music:

In the summer of 2007 both the MU and the LMF publicly called on the government to implement further entertainment licensing exemptions for small gigs as soon as possible. A figure of 100 was suggested as the maximum attendance for exempt performances.

If past form is any guide, Sharkey will claim that predictions of catastrophe for live music in the wake of the Licensing Act never materialised. He forgets that such concerns were first widely publicised when the original Licensing Bill was published in November 2002. That Bill made all secular music in churches illegal unless licensed, had no exemption for incidental live music, and all musicians faced a potential criminal prosecution if they played in an unlicensed venue without first checking that it was appropriately licensed. Concessions in these areas were only won in the teeth of government opposition and with the support of Liberal Democrat and Conservative Peers in the Lords.

It is also worth remembering that, despite strong opposition support at the time, the government shot down a proposed small gigs exemption on the grounds that the police thought all live music was a public order problem - a view recently echoed by Councillor Chris White, Chair of the Board of Culture, Tourism and Sport at the Local Government Association:

'Live music is, like anything else which is an attraction in licensed premises, potentially a public order problem,' he began. 'If you start from that point of view, then it becomes clear what you must do...'
[Culture Committee oral evidence session 14 October 2008]


Hamish Birchall