UK Government responds on Licensing Act problems

January 2008

Live music industry

In a somewhat lacklustre announcement, the UK Government has nodded through a token £500,000 (E700,000) to support new initiatives in developing rehearsal spaces for performing artists in the live music industry in the UK – which it estimates is worth £743 million per year (E1,040 million) up 8% from 2006.  In its response to the Live Music Forum’s report on the live industry which was set up after the introduction of the Licensing Act in 2005, the Government has said said it would “explore exemptions from licences for some small venues” – but unfortunately no time frame is given. The DCMS release added that it would “work with the Mayor of London to protect venues” – but no mechanisms are given. The response also said that the Government would help the National Union of Students (NUS) to re-establish a live music network to increase the number of universities putting on live music – although the NUS had itself already set up the new uLive circuit in June 2007 – so this is hardly a new initiative. All in all a most disappointing response.

The Forum’s report, published in July, made recommendations on how the Government could improve the licensing system for live music venues and how it could better promote live music and one key finding was that some small venues had been put off staging live performances after the old ‘two in a bar rule’ was abolished. Interestingly the press release slips in the phrase ‘anachronistic’ when referring to the old system although at the time the Government pointedly ignored a vigorous (and it might be added now fairly accurate) campaign in the House of Lords supporting live music and pointing out the old rule was a practical, workable and simple solution allowing small venues, pubs, clubs, community spaces and restaurants that put on live music. But it was abolished anyway!  In many ways the Licensing Act has been seemingly beneficial to the leisure industries and whilst small venues struggled with increased bureaucracy, larger venues, events and festivals have found the streamlined process an advantage. On top of this, flexible licensing hours as well as Temporary Events Notices have been a boon to the industry. Culture Secretary James Purnell said “The live music industry is clearly booming but there hasn’t yet been the increase in live music in small venues such as restaurants that we had hoped for. I want to do everything we can to support live music. To help ensure that, we will explore exemptions for some venues. Clearly we’d only be looking at exemptions for events that don’t cause public nuisance or compromise public safety …. and so fans are able to see their idols live in central London venues, we will work with the Mayor of London to investigate how we can secure the future of live music venues.” The Culture Secretary added that up to a dozen new rehearsal spaces would be developed in conjunction with local and regional authorities and industry supporters including AIM, the BPI and Sony BMG – this initiative spearheaded by ex-Live Music Forum chair Feargal Sharkey

The response to the Live Music Forum’s (LMF) report can be found at

The LMF published its report on 4 July 2007. The report can be found at:

A survey of live music in England and Wales 2007 was conducted by BMRB Social Research on behalf of DCMS and can be found at:

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