The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Thursday 14th July 2009 - DCMS stand up to Sharkey

Responding to Feargal Sharkey's criticism of the government for rejecting the Culture Committee's recommended small gigs exemption, a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said yesterday:

'... we totally reject the suggestion that the Licensing Act has lead to a decrease in live music venues. Of course we want people to enjoy live music but we also have to consider any impact on people living in residential areas, which is why it has been impossible to find a workable exemption.'

Sharkey had cited the 5% fall in venues providing live music that was the headline finding of the BMRB research published by DCMS in December 2007.

DCMS claims that in 2007-8 there was a 7% rise in venues licensed to provide live music. That may be true - but it is irrelevant.

It is absurd for DCMS to reject the case for exemptions on this basis. Their own data shows that overall about 60% of premises licensed under the Licensing Act still have no authorisation for live music. That figure is likely to be higher for specific categories like pubs and restaurants.

DCMS continues misleadingly to imply that noise from live music is a significant problem, and that existing nuisance legislation is in some way inadequate. Both insinuations are wrong. There is no evidence that live music is a significant nuisance, and existing legislation is perfectly adequate.

The Licensing Act also applies to any place, not just in bars and restaurants. Schools, hospitals, even private homes are caught where live music is performed in public, or in private if the event is to make a profit or merely raise money for a good cause.

The DCMS response sounds more like council jobsworths than impartial civil servants. This reminds me of a strange spectacle I witnessed when the first small gigs exemption was defeated by the government in the House of Lords in 2003. On leaving the debating chamber I saw the DCMS licensing team of senior civil servants congratulating one another with broad smiles and handshakes.


Hamish Birchall