The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Tuesday 6th April 2010 - Brass, drums and bagpipes should be illegal unless licensed suggest council officers

Brass instruments, drums and bagpipes should be illegal unless licensed, according to council enforcement officers.

This is the implication of the response to a DCMS consultation by the Local Authority Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services - LACORS - motto: 'promoting quality regulation':[see p2]

Under the Licensing Act's 'entertainment facilities' provisions, even providing a piano in a bar, or an instrument for a school concert, is a potential criminal offence unless licensed explicitly as an 'entertainment facility'. No-one need actually perform - provision of the unlicensed facility is of itself the potential criminal offence. Max penalty: £20,000 fine and six months inside. Last summer, pianos set up for the public to play in London streets had to be licensed in this way.

Robert Hardman reported in the Daily Mail of 23 June 2009: 'Every piano has required both planning permission and a temporary events licence, not to mention meetings with the police and a constellation of local government functionaries. There would actually be more pianos scattered across London were it not for the red tape and local jobsworths':

Last October, licensing minister Gerry Sutcliffe said that this had not been the government's intention and promised to clarify the law.

To that end, on 15 January 2010 DCMS published a consultation (which closed on 26 February). This proposed that unamplified musical instruments should be exempt from the 'entertainment facilities' provisions. It also proposed a clarification of the existing exemption for performances that qualify as 'incidental music', making clear that both amplified and unamplified instruments could be provided:

But LACORS seems to want only solo unamplified performance to qualify for the 'incidental music' exemption. This is contrary to current DCMS guidance, which suggests that an orchestra might qualify: '... an orchestra may provide incidental music at a large exhibition': [p29, para 3.22]

LACORS wants this Guidance to be changed:

'... The issue of numbers of instruments should also be covered by the revised Guidance, in order to make it clear that music involving multiple instruments is very unlikely to fall within the incidental music exemption.'

And: '... the Guidance should set out "negative" examples of instruments that are unlikely to be capable of producing incidental music, e.g. bagpipes, drums, brass instruments and so on that would then not be exempt, in order to provide clarity for operators and performers as well as local authority officers (and others with an enforcement role under the Licensing Act 2003).'

What do you think of this LACORS proposal? The author of their DCMS response is Charlotte Meller:


Hamish Birchall