The Live Music Forum Circular

26th September 2012 - 4 days To Go by Hamish Birchall

On Monday 1st October the Live Music Act 2012 (LMA) comes into effect.

At a stroke it will create tens of thousands of potential new live music venues in England and Wales.

The LMA amends the Licensing Act 2003, introducing a new and historic exemption from entertainment licensing for performances of live music between 8am and 11pm.  If the performance uses amplification there is an audience limit of 200.  If unamplified there is no audience limit.

In pubs and bars that already have live music permission on their premises licence, existing live music conditions will not have effect when live music is being performed between 8am and 11pm. Within those hours, conditions such as restrictions on performer numbers, genres, or amplification would no longer be enforceable.

Under the LMA, pubs or bars that don't already have a live music authorisation on their premises licence will now be free to host live music between 8am and 11pm, subject to the 200 audience limit if the live music is amplified.

But in these and other alcohol-licensed venues, the live music exemption could be reversed if the venue disturbs local residents. At a licence review, the LMA allows for local authorities to re-impose conditions on live music performances.

The benefit of the LMA licence exemptions goes much further than pubs and bars.  Subject to the same hours and audience conditions above, the exemption for live music extends to all workplaces.  This is a broad term that includes offices, shops, schools and hospitals.

The LMA also does away with the requirement to licence the provision of entertainment facilities. Among other things, this means it will no longer be a potential criminal offence to put a piano in a bar for customers to enjoy, or for a school to provide instruments and a PA for a charity fund-raising concert by pupils.  Lastly, the LMA makes it possible for recorded music, rather than solely live music, to accompany morris or similar dancing.

It all sounds great - but the benefits for pubs and bars could be undermined if a worrying and indeed misleading suggestion within the DCMS revised licensing Guidance is ratified.

This Guidance is secondary legislation to which licensing authorities 'must have regard'.  The words of the Licensing Act take precedence, but the Guidance is what usually informs licensing officer enforcement.  And paragraph 15.14 of the revised draft wrongly suggests that licensing officers might in certain cases circumvent the LMA and impose pre-emptive conditions on live music even when there has been no licence review. The draft was put out for public consultation by DCMS on 22 August and this closes on 28 September:

Serious concerns have already been raised by the music industry and campaigners, but it is not yet clear whether they will be satisfactorily addressed.   The new Guidance will probably not be published until the end of October.  If it fails to meet the concerns already raised, its implementation could be further delayed in Parliament or subject to judicial review.

For some campaigners, like John King, the revised licensing Guidance may create more problems than it solves for live music.  His thorough and entertaining analysis has been published today by MusicTank:

For a DCMS summary of the effect of the Live Music Act see: [scroll down]


Hamish Birchall