Not before time. The disproportionate, unnecessary, often inconsistent powers given to Local Authorities by parliament to regulate small-scale live music by by the 2003 Licensing Act are being lifted. The Live Music Act comes into effect from midnight on Sunday. A cynic might say they’ve timed this for the start of the Labour Party Conference, since it was Labour who kept the old powers in place…
Local Authorities have not exactly been shouting this change in the law from the rooftops: UKMusic did a survey, and 78% of the 1000 premises putting on live music which their researchers surveyed were completely unaware of the change. It’s been a discussion within Whitehall. The DCMS, incidentally, have published their “Impact Assessment” of the likely economic effects of changng the law
What does it all mean for musicians? Essentially that musicians are free to pursue gigs, and the venues won’t need a licence to put them on. Provided you are singing or playing within the hours of 8 am to 11pm, and provided – if you’re amplified – that you don’t attract a crowd of more than 200, there is no need for the local authority’s licensng department to be made aware. In the depths of Osborne’s recession, how much venues will feel confident to pay is another question, but at least the illegality of small-scale live music and all the laughable “unintended consequences” of the 2003 act (this was arguably the best one) are consigned to history. The Musicians Union has updated its Live Music Kit to explain the change.
I stopped believing in the value of any UK statistics on live music a long time ago, they are always crude back-of-an-envelope guesstimates, but UKMusic are claiming: the following:
•13,000 venues could now stage live music for the first time
•20,400 venues could increase their provision of live music
Here is how Hamish Birchall describes the change :
The LMA amends the Licensing Act 2003, introducing a new and historic exemption from entertainment licensing for performances of live music between 8am and 11pm. If the performance uses amplification there is an audience limit of 200. If unamplified there is no audience limit.
In pubs and bars that already have live music permission on their premises licence, existing live music conditions will not have effect when live music is being performed between 8am and 11pm. Within those hours, conditions such as restrictions on performer numbers, genres, or amplification would no longer be enforceable.
Under the LMA, pubs or bars that don’t already have a live music authorisation on their premises licence will now be free to host live music between 8am and 11pm, subject to the 200 audience limit if the live music is amplified.
But in these and other alcohol-licensed venues, the live music exemption could be reversed if the venue disturbs local residents. At a licence review, the LMA allows for local authorities to re-impose conditions on live music performances.
The benefit of the LMA licence exemptions goes much further than pubs and bars. Subject to the same hours and audience conditions above, the exemption for live music extends to all workplaces. This is a broad term that includes offices, shops, schools and hospitals.
The LMA also does away with the requirement to licence the provision of entertainment facilities. Among other things, this means it will no longer be a potential criminal offence to put a piano in a bar for customers to enjoy, or for a school to provide instruments and a PA for a charity fund-raising concert by pupils. Lastly, the LMA makes it possible for recorded music, rather than solely live music, to accompany morris or similar dancing.
There is one possible catch in the new primary legislation: Hamish has spotted a completely ambiguous killer clause, which looks like it gives Licensing Officers latitude to reach for their powers under the old Act, and will also ensure that licensing lawyers are kept in work to sort out yet more inadequate drafting by legislators:
‘APPLYING CONDITIONS TO NON-LICENSABLE ACTIVITIES
‘15.13 The removal of entertainment facilities from the definition of regulated entertainment raises the question of whether conditions can relate to non-licensable activities. If appropriate for the promotion of the licensing objectives, and there is a link to remaining licensable activities, conditions that relate to non-licensable activities can be added to or altered on that licence or certificate at review. This has been a feature of licence conditions since the 2003 Act came into force. A relevant example could be the use of conditions relating to large screen broadcasts of certain sporting events which, combined with alcohol consumption, create a genuine risk to the promotion of the licensing objectives. Similarly, it is not uncommon for licence conditions relating to the sale of alcohol to restrict access to outside areas, such as beer gardens, after a certain time.
‘15.14 So, in relation to the provision of entertainment facilities it might, for example, be possible in certain circumstances to limit the use or volume of a microphone made available for customers to sing, if customers who have purchased alcohol for consumption on the premises have caused a problem by become louder and less aware of potential noise nuisance later in the evening. Another example, where conditions could be considered, might be if public safety concerns arise around raised stages being accessed by customers who have been consuming alcohol and then present a greater risk of accident.’