The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Wednesday 5th May 2010 - Margaret Hodge repeats misleading live music claims

Margaret Hodge became the latest minister to peddle DCMS myths about live music, suggesting that licence statistics were somehow good news during the BBC6 live music debate last Friday, 30 April:

'... I've just been looking at the figures before I came on today and actually the number of [live music] licences has gone up by 11% between 07 and 09, so that's... [Feargal Sharkey tries to intervene]... the number of licences, hang on Feargal - I was very careful with the words I used - the number of licences, so there's an increase in the number of pubs that have got licences but whether they're using them is another issue. The only other evidence we've got, is we have a... we do an annual survey of what people take part in and how they spend their time, and under that survey we see that again there's an increase in the number of people, adults, who go to live rock, pop, country, folk, soul, r'n'b, and world music... so it's a pretty difficult...' [about 41m 30s into the programme - NB only 2 days left to listen]

But Ms Hodge was not careful enough with her words.

Firstly, she didn't mention licence conditions. These are routinely imposed by local authorities and include requirements to fit noise limiters, provide door supervisers, even - as in St Albans - to restrict performer numbers and genres of music. Live music can only be staged if such conditions are implemented by the licensee. Without knowing if conditions have been imposed, and whether or not they have been put into effect, it is impossible to know if the venue can lawfully host live music. DCMS has not surveyed licence conditions.

Secondly, she didn't mention the dramatically increased scope of entertainment licensing under the 2003 Licensing Act, making it inevitable that there would be thousands more applications. This point was subsequently made by Conservative John Whittingdale, chair of the all party Culture, Media and Sport Committee that last year recommended entertainment licensing exemptions for venues up to 200 capacity.

Thirdly, the modest attendance increase Ms Hodge cites from the Taking Part surveys (about 3% 2005-2009) is largely accounted for by mega-venues O2 and Wembley Stadium opening in 2007. In that year alone, over 400,000 attended concerts at those two venues.

Lastly, as Feargal Sharkey pointed out, Ms Hodge for some reason did not mention DCMS research of 2007 which found a 5% fall in gigs since the Licensing Act came into force (BRMB live music survey, the follow-up to the benchmark 2004 MORI/DCMS survey):

'Listen it's very simple, and it's kind of disappointing I'm still hearing this, the government's own figures show that there was in fact a 5% reduction in those small-scale venues and everybody does not want to talk about it.'


Hamish Birchall