MU joins criticism of Licensing Act

November 2008

Live music

From an article by Lalayn Baluch in the Stage

The Musicians’ Union has become the latest organisation to criticise the impact of the Licensing Act 2003 on live entertainment in the UK, accusing it of greatly increasing bureaucracy “for very little benefit”. In the MU’s submission to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s licensing regime inquiry, the musicians’ trade body argues that the legislation has failed to increase the number of live music events around the country and has deterred small venues from hosting gigs. The trade body is now calling on the government to implement “tangible benefits” for venues which do schedule events – such as tax breaks for those that host more than 50 gigs every year – to create a clearer definition of incidental music and simplify the licensing application process. Meanwhile, the union’s report also mounts pressure on the government to introduce an exemption from the legislation for small venues. The MU’s submission states that the inclusion of regulated entertainment in the licensing act is unnecessary and reveals that according to the majority of police chiefs around the country, live music has no effect on the levels of crime and disorder. It also criticises the act for giving too much weight to the opinions of the local community – which it labels the “tyranny of the minority” – and questions why residents are encouraged to object to live music events, but not to support them. Earlier this month, both Equity and the Association of Circus Proprietors in their submissions to the culture select committee, urged the government to free circuses from expensive and “bureaucratic” licensing laws. Equity also echoed the MU in calling for an exemption for small venues and said the link between entertainment and the licensing objectives were “confusing and illogical”. DCMS spokesperson Lord Davies of Oldham last week said that the government could implement a licensing concession for small venues by next spring.

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