Live music de-regulation plan confirmed

By John Harrington, M&C Report

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Live music Music Government Dcms

Live music: de-regulation is on the cards
Live music: de-regulation is on the cards
Pubs will not require specific permission to host live music or other forms of entertainment for crowds under 5,000 — under radical plans that could prove a major boost for the industry.

Almost every activity in the category of regulated entertainment will exempt from licensing requirements, as long as audiences are under 5,000, under a new consultation from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

As well as live music, the de-regulation would apply to performances of recorded music where the music is a feature element, such as DJ events — background music is already exempt under the Licensing Act.

Broadcasts of films and performances of theatre and dance will also be exempt.

Activities that would be exempt from the de-regulation are boxing and wrestling matches, and performances of dance that are classified as sexual entertainment but not exempt under separate sexual entertainment venues regulations.

No night time cut-off period is proposed for the de-regulation, although DCMS pointed out that the Noise Act already bans excessive noise from pubs and clubs after 11pm.

The consultation asks for views on the 5,000-person limit, whether there should be a voluntary code of practice and different rules for outdoor events, and whether the capacity limit is necessary for unamplified performances.

However, the plans are expected to be met by opposition from some senior figures within local government, who have previously expressed concerns about the impact of deregulating live music in particular.

John Penrose, the minister leading the issue at the DCMS, said current entertainment licensing rules are “a mess”.

He pointed out, for example, that permission is needed for a folk duo performing in the corner of a village pub, but not for big-screen broadcasts of England football games in a packed city centre pub.

“There are many other examples where types of entertainment are treated differently for no good reason — the distinctions are inconsistent, illogical and capricious.”

He added: “There is evidence that pubs which diversified their offer to include activities other than drinking were better able to survive the recession. Making it easier for them to put on entertainment may therefore provide an important source of new income to struggling businesses such as pubs, restaurants and hotels.

“So this is a golden opportunity to deregulate, reduce bureaucratic burdens, cut costs, give the big society a boost and give free speech a helping hand as well. Our proposals are, simply, to remove the need for a licence from as many types of entertainment as possible.

“As long as you have proper controls on alcohol and spectator safety, the rest is mostly bonkers red tape, and it’s time we consigned it to the bin.”

Real credit

British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “The Government deserves real credit for looking at ways of sweeping away some of the red tape that gets in the way of music and other types of entertainment — it’s something we have long been calling for.

“Pubs are often the place where live music acts make their debut — so they are vital when it comes to providing a stage for new talent and for bringing in new customers.

“Live music, plays or films never needed to be licensed in the first place, so the thinking here is very positive, as pubs would no longer have to go through their local council to provide this entertainment.

“If the Government were to sweep these unnecessary restrictions away, this would be great for pubs, and for the whole hospitality industry. Pubs want to provide great entertainment for customers and introduce new emerging talent. These changes would improve their ability to do just that.”

Feargal Sharkey, chief executive of UK Music, the umbrella body for the music industry, added: “We are delighted that Government has adopted such a forward-thinking approach.

“Enabling live music to flourish has potential to drive social cohesion, entrepreneurialism and economic growth. UK Music warmly welcomes this consultation and all other measures that would remove red tape for the benefit of musicians and creative talent.”

Cultural future

Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) strategic affairs director, Kate Nicholls, said: “These radical government proposals will be music to the ears of many operators who for too long have been restricted by the unwieldy and costly bureaucracy associated with hosting live entertainment.

“The ALMR has been calling for this for a long time. It is particularly needed now as our latest benchmarking survey revealed the rising costs of putting on entertainment has been resulting in a major switch-off among operators.

“Therefore, if these proposals are adopted we would hope to see a significant uplift in the number of venues giving an opportunity to young and fledgling performers. For many years, pubs and bars have offered a platform for exciting new artistic talent and it is vital this tradition is not lost for the sake of Britain’s cultural future.

“We would urge the government to stand firm against any opposition it faces to these proposals, as the cutting of red tape in this area will be a welcome relief to struggling venues across the country.”

Related topics Licensing law Entertainment

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