Listen Up! - all you need to know

By James Wilmore

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Live music Feargal sharkey Music Metropolitan police

The Publican's Listen Up! campaign really seems to have struck a chord with the trade and many outside the industry. Since launching it last month,...

The Publican's Listen Up! campaign really seems to have struck a chord with the trade and many outside the industry.

Since launching it last month, we have secured the backing of punk legend Feargal Sharkey and Tory MP John Whittingdale - as well as scores of licensees and pub customers.

We are hearing a lot of disgruntlement from publicans who host live music about the way they are being treated by their council.

And it has not just been licensees - we've even had one resident complaining that the council are stopping live music in his local and there's nothing he can do about it. He tried to register his support for the pub, but the licensing officers were only interested in hearing the complainant's side of the story.

Our Facebook group​ for the campaign is also attracting a lot of interest, with more than 230 people already signed up.

But in case you have been on holiday and missed exactly what Listen Up! is about, here is a quick rundown of its aims:
Re-instate the two-in-a-bar rule

Under the previous licensing regime, pubs and bars were allowed to host two or less amplified musicians without needing a licence. But this rule was scrapped from the 2003 Licensing Act. Justifying the reason for this, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has described the rule as "very arbitrary", saying it discriminates against musicians that perform in larger groups.

However, as MPs told the government earlier this year, there is no obvious way having the rule would affect the objectives of the Act, such as crime and disorder or prevention of public nuisance.

If it was re-introduced pubs could host folk nights, for example, whenever they wanted without having the hassle of applying for a licence.
Offer exemptions to venues with a capacity of 200 or fewer

As with the two-in-bar rule there is no clear way that offering an exemption like this would present a major threat to public disorder - especially considering the number of people that occasionally watch sports events in pubs. Giving an exemption of this kind would hopefully allow more pubs that wanted to, to host live music, helping sustain them on quiet nights.

Scrap Form 696

This controversial risk-assessment form was introduced by the Metropolitan Police more than three years ago on a voluntary basis, but some venues now have to sign up to it as part of their licence. Though aimed mainly at nightclubs in London, there are also some pubs and bars affected.

MPs have said the form is "unreasonable" and goes well beyond the requirements of the Licensing Act. The form has also attracted criticism for its racist undertones in targeting music genres most associated with black and Asian audiences, such as bashment, R'n'B and garage. The Metropolitan Police is currently reviewing the form.

More flexible approach from councils

Since launching Listen Up! we've heard numerous stories of councils employing a hardline approach on pubs trying to make some money from music. Responsible licensees must be aware of their neighbours, but some councils appear to be taking the side of residents and demonising pubs, instead of acknowledging that live music can have a fantastically positive impact on a community.

Visit the Listen Up! area of

• Do you have a story about live music? Call 020 7955 3713, or email

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