The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Wednesday 15th July 2009 - Sharkey backs Lib Dem live music bill

UKMusic, the lobbying organisation for the British music industry, has strongly backed the Lib Dem live music bill which would exempt a range of small gigs from entertainment licensing.

The announcement came yesterday at the end of an outspoken statement by chief executive Feargal Sharkey, fiercely critical of the government's failure to implement the Culture Committee's recommended licensing exemptions for small gigs:

'Yet again we are told to wait. Yet again we are told that there will be another new review process, more meetings and yet another group, this time charged specifically with trying to develop loopholes which exploit a deeply flawed and ill-conceived Licensing Act. At what point does someone within Government become brave enough to acknowledge that it is time to raise a hand, time to admit they have got it wrong and time to fix it. To recall the words of one former party leader, 'Sometimes it is better to lose and do the right thing than to win and do the wrong thing'.

'... What is most surprising is that British music must now rely on opposition parties to support the future of our industry. That is why tomorrow we will be supporting the introduction of the Liberal Democrat Live Music Bill. This is opposition legislation specifically designed to tackle the key issues in the Licensing Act 2003; key issues which damage our industry and which provide a platform for the unattractive and immoral principles of Form 696."


But if UK Music is forthright in its criticism of government and wholehearted in its backing of the Liberal Democrat bill, the Musicians Union is once again strangely muted.

In a brief statement yesterday, the union, which represents about 31,000 musicians, recorded its 'disappointment' at the government position, that it was working with the Metropolitan Police to 'limit the potentially negative impact of form 696', and with '... LACORS to encourage the use of the incidental music provision within the Act'. No mention of lobbying for any exemptions, no mention of the Lib Dem bill:

The contrast with the UK Music position could hardly be greater. What has happened to the union that used to be proud to fight for the interests of gigging musicians?

The Lib Dem live music bill gets its first reading today at 3.30pm in the House of Lords. This takes the form of a short announcement by its sponsor, Tim Clement-Jones. It will then be printed and should be available tomorrow on the Parliament website.

What happens after that is less certain. The Bill will join a queue with other private members bills for a full second reading debate in the autumn. Whether it makes it or not by that time is determined by government priorities and business managers.

Parliament's summer recess begins on 22nd July. The Queens Speech is likely to be mid- or late-November.


Hamish Birchall