Feargal asks for Licensing Act action

February 2011

Live events industry

UK Music has expressed its frustration over the UK Coalition government’s inaction to exempt pubs from Licensing Act red tape. Many had hoped that when the new government came into power the endless (and ultimately pointless) round of consultations under Labour would end – and action would start. UK Music CEO Feargal Sharkey there was “immense frustration” that the new coalition government had yet to deliver on its promise to cut red tape around live music in pubs adding “Live music is part of this country’s DNA. It stitches communities together and in this economic environment remains a vital part of the livelihood of musicians, pubs, clubs, bars and a host of other businesses” … “The Licensing Act is failing small venues and that is having a huge impact on the future of the live industry. We have one of the most successful creative and commercial music industries in the world, but the first step for many live acts is to be able to play in front of a few of their mates in a local pub.”
The Music Industries Association, which represents the musical instrument sector, also called for government action, again saying that current rules are damaging the grass roots music sector and that 75% of stakeholders in live music, including the local councils which licence live events, support a change in the current licensing system.  Research carried out by PRS for Music found that pubs that provide music take on average 44% more money than pubs that do not, a figure which rises to 60% at the weekend.

Many venues have already given up live music or closed including The Luminaire in London, Sawyers in Kettering, The Cellars at Eastney and the Barfly in Cardiff and hundreds of  other pubs hosting music have also closed recently, although many have added problems caused by the smoking ban and the recession. Sharkey said “Thanks to the tireless efforts of Lord Clement-Jones there is a Private members Bill in motion that could remove this barrier to progress” but added “I hope the Licensing Minister can take the overwhelming message of this belated consultation on board and give power back to local communities, liberate small-scale live music and take it out of the Licensing Act.” Proposals centre round an exclusion of under 200 (or possibly 100) capacity venues and bringing back the ‘two in a bar’ rule where two or one musician would not need to be licensed. Campaigners claim such an exemption could save struggling small venues hundreds of thousands of pounds each year and that direct Government intervention could effect change in weeks not years.


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