The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Friday 15th July 2009 - Live music bill published

The Lib Dem live music bill is now available on the Parliament website:

If enacted it would amend the Licensing Act to exempt a range of small gigs...
a.. in alcohol-licensed premises up to 200 capacity, up to midnight, but subject to review if there are problems.
b.. in hospitals, schools and colleges up to 200 audience/participants and providing alcohol is not being sold.
c.. anywhere by one or two musicians, either unamplified or minimally amplified.
Another amendment would permit amplified music accompanying morris and similar dancing (the exemption currently applies only to unamplified live music).

A new definition is proposed for 'minimal amplification'. This allows amplification for one or two performers, provided it does not predominate over unamplified instruments. The wording was derived in part from the discussion of music volume in the 'incidental music' section of the Licensing Guidance, paragraph 3.22, secondary legislation that accompanies the Act:

Jobsworths will of course warn that if the bill succeeds, society will fall apart and the sky will fall in. And, since jobsworth culture has infected the DCMS licensing team, ministers will probably make similar dire predictions.

In fact the bill does less for live music than was done for amplified big screen broadcast entertainment, which enjoys an unqualified exemption. Indeed, this bill does less than was done for DJs and amplified music during the changeover to the new regime in 2005. All bars and other premises converting their existing alcohol licence were granted automatic permission to play recorded music, with no conditions. And the bill's two-performer exemption falls short of the old 'two in a bar rule' which had no constraint on amplification.

If government and DCMS statements this week teach us anything it is that, despite the rhetoric ('of course we want people to enjoy live music...'), they cannot grasp the idea that a thriving 'music industry' also means live music being part of the normal, day-to-day activity in the community, regulated by the same laws that already address public safety in workplaces, public nuisance and disorder.


Hamish Birchall