Small venue licensing: "Frustration levels beginning to rise again."

Feargal Sharkey, Chief Executive of UK Music, who has taken a leading and very public role in the music licensing debate is sounding a note of caution in an interview published today. Interviewed by the Morning Advertiser he says:

Things have been in purgatory lately. There are promises and reassuring comments being made by Government, but I can’t see much evidence of anything being impacted yet. It’s not to say that it won’t happen, but I think there are frustration levels that I can feel beginning to rise again. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has repeated the ambition of the coalition to reduce the red tape and the bureaucracy that is associated with live music, and perhaps it’s now time to start delivering on those commitments.

We’ve made it perfectly clear from the beginning that we cannot see any reason to waylay music while we wait for the Licensing Act. We don’t think that live music, overall, should have anything to do with the Licensing Act whatsoever.

In terms of the smaller premises, we’re somewhat confused and bewildered that anybody thinks that regulating those kind of small-scale venues and pubs is either reasonable, necessary or, indeed, proportionate.”

Background: The Live Music Bill is due to go to the report stage in September, and be voted on in the House of Commons in the spring. There is supposed to be a consultation exercise under way (I make that consultation number 12 or possibly 13, we’v e kinda been here before….), but Sharkey is clearly sensing that things are coming unstuck….. 

Most recent statements from the ministers Hunt and Penrose in the summer have been supportive of the bill. Penrose said  in an interview in May:

 ‘Live entertainment is a good thing. It improves our cultural life, provides enormous pleasure for millions and should be encouraged, not stifled by the clammy hand of bureaucracy. The current regime makes it harder for new talent to get a chance to perform in front of audiences, imposes a deadweight cost on small businesses and voluntary bodies who want to put on shows, and in a small but significant way, reduces our free speech. As long as we have proper controls on alcohol, and spectator safety and noise nuisance are controlled, the rest is mostly bonkers red tape, and it’s time we consigned it to the bin.’

Let’s hope that this process isn’t coming off the rails yet again, and that a DCMS minister will get up on his hind legs and confirm that it isn’t.

Full text of the  Morning Advertiser interview

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