The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Thursday 25th February 2010 - Statistics watchdog investigates minister's live music claims

The UK Statistics authority confirmed yesterday that they have asked DCMS for statistical evidence relating to claims made about live music by licensing minister Gerry Sutcliffe in The Publican magazine.

In a wide-ranging interview about the Licensing Act, published on 25 February, the minister was asked:

'Is the [DCMS] consultation for exemptions for small gigs an acknowledgement that the original legislation has hampered live music in pubs?'
The minister replied: 'No. If you look at the facts we've actually increased the amount of live music that's taking place.'

The Publican: 'But not in pubs.'

Minister: 'Well in venues. Applications for live music has gone up.'

But DCMS has not measured actual gigs in pubs or anywhere else since the BMRB survey of 2007. Even the otherwise misleading DCMS report of 28 January 2010, 'Changes in live music 2005-2009' has no direct evidence and concedes:

'It is hard to say conclusively that the number of premises with a live music licence indicates more live music venues or more live music gigs...' (see p2)

The minister's misleading claims were echoed in Parliament last Monday, 2nd March, by Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw, in an exchange with Conservative shadow licensing minister Ed Vaizey:

Mr. Edward Vaizey (Wantage) (Con): The Government are fond of saying that there has been an increase in live music since the Licensing Act came in. One reason for that is that the number of events that need to be licensed has increased, and another is the coming on stream of the O2 arena and Wembley stadium. Is the Minister aware that the UK Statistics Authority has said:

"The DCMS...and Press Office will be alerted to the possibility of misinterpretation and the need to exercise caution when quoting the figures"?

Can he confirm that the UK Statistics Authority has written to him in those terms and that he will exercise caution in using those figures in future?

Mr. Bradshaw: Unlike the Conservative party, we always take very seriously what the UK Statistics Authority says, and I shall do so. Certainly on the information we have, I do not think anyone challenges the fact that there has been significant growth in the amount of live music, but the hon. Gentleman is right to identify the fact that it has been concentrated in medium and larger-sized venues. Similar growth has not been seen in smaller venues, which is exactly why we are proposing to extend the exemption to them. Again, however, I am afraid I am still completely confused about the hon. Gentleman's policy. On the one hand, he told the Performers Alliance, at a reception at Parliament recently, that he supported Lord Clement-Jones's Bill; but on the other, the Conservative Local Government Association is vehemently opposed to any exemption for licensed premises.

In fact attendance at the O2 and Wembley Stadium account for most of the 'growth in live music' claimed by the Culture Secretary.

The Statistics Authority wrote to DCMS in December 2009 including this request specifically in relation to DCMS Alcohol and Entertainment Licensing statistics: 'The DCMS Minister and Press Office will be alerted to the possibility of misinterpretation and the need to exercise caution when quoting the figures.'


Hamish Birchall