The Live Music Forum


Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Thursday 23rd April 2009 - Minor variations 'useless' and of little benefit say experts

The Musicians Union gave it a cautious welcome, but licensing experts have dismissed the government's 'minor variations' amendment as 'useless' and of little benefit.

'What started off as a helpful gesture by the Department for Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) to overcome the elaborate procedure for varying a licence has turned into a pedantic nightmare, as MPs and peers entirely missed the point in their committees. They have insisted on extra safeguards which in effect turn the measure into a useless addition to the Licensing Act,' wrote Peter Coulson in The Morning Advertiser on 9th April 2009.

'... we had a simple form of minor variations procedure under the old law, with the licensing justices giving instant decisions, and it worked pretty well. Residents were not prejudiced, but it gave operators the opportunity to alter their premises, usually for the better. Now, suspicious neighbours will be objecting on principle to even the most uncontroversial of actions, simply because they can.'

Excerpts from 'Ups and downs of variations' by Peter Coulson. Full article here:

Leading licensing lawyer Jeremy Allen predicts that 'In many premises with residents nearby, where there is time pressure, there is little chance that the procedure will be used':

But if the experts are right, why did the Musicians Union give the minor variations process a cautious welcome, and Music Week magazine claim only last Monday, 20 April, that this was a 'major boost to nursery venues'?

Both the MU and the music industry are lobbying the government to extend copyright in sound recordings. This suffered a setback recently when the UK government voted against the European Copyright Term Directive. One reason among others why the MU and the music industry may not want to rock the government's entertainment licensing boat too hard.


Hamish Birchall