Live Music Act: Q&As on pub karaoke

Related tags Live music Music Performance Officer

Live Music Act: Q&As on pub karaoke
This is the second article published with the Live Music Act (LMA) 2012 having been implemented today. Last week, we analysed the definition of live music-related conditions, the enforceability of conditions placed on a premises licence after a review, and what was meant by an “audience” of 200 people. Here are this week’s questions.

Q. Does karaoke require any permission on a premises licence?
One question raised more than any by the licensing authorities is whether or not the LMA has the effect of making karaoke an unlicensable activity. It is quite clear that you cannot distinguish between a professional performer who is singing to an audience and a customer doing the same. Whether or not you could call what the customer is singing “music”, they are still performing to an audience and they are still performing “live music”.

The LMA was not designed to cover karaoke but rather promote and encourage local live bands playing in licensed premises.

However, the recorded music accompanying live singing during karaoke is likely to be considered part of the live music in the same way backing tracks played by live bands are considered part of their live music. Provided, therefore, that the karaoke satisfies the other criteria of the LMA in most circumstances I do not believe recorded music will need a specific authorisation. 

What about any words displayed on the screen? Are these the “exhibition of films” and require authorisation? If there is a pre-recorded video of the singer being shown, permission would probably be required but it is questionable whether simply showing the words of a song are in fact the “exhibition of a film”. On balance, we would suggest it is not.

Lastly, many authorities require “facilities for making music” to be authorised on a licence to allow customers to take part in karaoke. The LMA removes the concept of entertainment facilities from the licensing regime, so there will be no need to have this authorisation in future.

Many pubs who have neither live music nor recorded music on their premises licence will probably, therefore, be able to have karaoke between 8am and 11pm provided they are open for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises, and the audience is no more than 200. We await clarification in the statutory guidance.

Q. What are the consequences for premises that cause disturbance as a result of the karaoke or live music
The LMA effectively provides a ‘one strike and you’re out’. If residents, and any of the responsible authorities (in almost all cases the environmental health officer), are concerned about the level of noise, an application can be made to the licensing authority for a review of the premises licence. 

If the licensing authority is satisfied the live music is being played at the premises in a manner and/or at a level that is detrimental to the licensing objectives (usually public nuisance) it can remove the exemption the premises previously benefited from — meaning live music would thereafter have to be specifically authorised on the premises licence.

If you already have it — and it hasn’t been removed at the same review — all well and good. If not, you would then need to apply for a variation of the premises licence, which, of course, you are unlikely to get if there have been noise nuisances in the past associated with live music. Either way, the licensing authority can additionally add or amend conditions relating to live music, which would have effect even between 8am and 11pm.

  • Next week: How the LMA affects temporary event notices, discos and conditions relating to non-licensable activities.

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