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Consultation on proposal to exempt small live music events

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Dear Sir/Madam

We would like to respond to the public consultation on a licensing exemption for small scale live music events.

Having spent my entire musical life playing in such venues as the small pub and club, I expected the Licensing Act to have a damaging impact on the small venues where most musicians cut their teeth and some survive throughout a professional life. The Act certainly affected me that way and last year a venue I was using regularly closed, after having a Premises License application for live music turned down on the basis of a single complaint. This is a story common throughout England and Wales. Also, the opportunity to set up casual gigs on my own in virtually thousands of pubs and restaurants just evaporated, when the Licensing Act 2003 came into power.

The Licensing Act 2003 has adversely affected many areas of the music industry, from a well known retailer not being able to have a guest star entertain the public for free in a shopping centre, to ‘Rock’ and ‘Pop’ genres being outlawed in one venue by a London Borough. Not to mention, the hundreds of pubs which have been refused live music permission or had it withdrawn following ‘single complaints’ or objections from Councils.

Part of the problem is that the attitude of Councils varies dramatically throughout the land and some take the law into their own hands, as can be seen in the, probably illegal, conditions which have been added to licenses. Quite a few councils have a negative attitude to live music and this has been confirmed by the outrageous statements from LGA spokespersons associating live music with public disorder.

Recently, I have written to the Local Government Association, the Metropolitan Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers requesting evidence to support their statements that live music attracts public disorder. Nobody has been able to put forward any evidence whatsoever.

In fact, Commander Paul Minton of the ACPO said, in his reply to us,

“I am happy to provide you with the reassurance that you seek.  The vast majority of live music events serve to provide considerable pleasure and social benefit without implication for policing or public safety.  In a very small number of cases there is clear evidence of association of criminality with events or acts and that obviously needs to be dealt with as the intelligence and circumstances indicate, however, this is clearly the exception  and not the norm.”.

Therefore, we believe it is essential to make some provision within the law to regulate Councils who misapply the Licensing Act and any new exemptions          in the future. Clear indication should be given to Councils that they are not to stifle the Creative Arts in communities by over zealous regulation or control of Entertainers. Rather, they have a responsibility to make their facilities more available to local artists and promoters. Similarly, with Colleges who have for decades soaked up more and more funding which has been diverted from the arts.

There should be a Small Gigs Exemption with an attendance limit of 200 or 250. 100 is simply too low to allow many a publican to pay his costs, his staff and pay anything like a reasonable wage to the musicians performing. It is now generally accepted that issues of public safety and noise disturbance are amply catered for in other existing legislation.

There should be no limit on the number of performers and reasonable amplification should be allowed. It is a misconception that an amplified group will automatically be louder than a Jukebox amplified through a pub’s sound system. Karaoke and DJs are generally louder than a four-piece band. Besides, most musicians playing live want to perform at a reasonable level where they can hear each other, and without risk of damaging their own hearing. As has been established, there are other options to regulate cases where noise nuisance occurs. Naturally, the provision of “Entertainment Facilities” needs to be included in the exemption in order for events to be truly exempt from licensing.

The live music exemption should apply to all non-licensed Premises including cafes, hairdressers, shops and public spaces. There can be no reason why a hairdresser should not be able to have a musician in playing a violin or a guitar for the comfort and pleasure of their customers. Or, why a shop should be disallowed from announcing a special promotion with a short performance by a small band. Why should a cafe be barred from trying to increase their trade by having an entertainer at lunchtimes. Busking has always been a great feature of London, particularly in places like the Underground. Now a lot of Councils are encouraging buskers in an attempt to draw shoppers back into deserted town centre’s. Very good, but the law should permit busking in all public spaces without it being at the whim of one or other Council Officer or Department.

Schools should be exempt without an attendance limit. Schools should be, and generally are, the safest places in our Communities and they certainly should not be restricted in their teaching or fundraising by unnecessary legislation such as the Licensing Act, except, perhaps, in cases where the sale of alcohol is proposed.

Phil Little

Live Music Forum

One Comment

    • dungbeetle
    • Posted March 19, 2010 at 3:52 pm
    • Permalink

    This Bill may yet get through… follow the latest news on this crucial struggle for cultural freedom on Live Music Forum

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