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Live Music Act becomes law

By | Published on Friday 9 March 2012

Houses Of Parliament

Tim Clement-Jones’s Live Music Bill became the Live Music Act yesterday, a considerable achievement for what was, after all, a private member’s bill – such legislative proposals usually being a mere side show to entertain MPs and test parliamentary opinion.

It took two goes of course, and was aided second time round by albeit lukewarm government support, but nevertheless, well done to Jones in the Lords and his counterpart in the Commons, Don Foster.

As previously reported, the Live Music Bill will remove some of the bureaucracy attached to gigs in smaller venues, much of which was introduced by the 2003 Licensing Act. In particular, venues under a 200 person capacity will no longer need local authority permission for music gigs between the hours of 8am and 11pm, and where music is not amplified there will be no capacity limit for that rule.

Many feel that bureaucracy has deterred some venue owners, especially pub landlords, from staging music nights in recent years, cutting off a valuable platform for new and alterative talent. With numerous specific grass roots music venues around the country, especially in the regional cities, currently going to the wall (however much you read about the still buoyant live sector), it’s more important than ever that all pubs, clubs and such like are encouraged to stage live music.

The new act is likely to come into effect this autumn, meaning it won’t be up and running in time for this summer’s Diamond Jubilee and Olympic celebrations. Some, who see those major events as a great opportunity for grass roots performers to reach a new audience, are disappointed the new rules won’t be introduced before the summer. But the Act’s supporters agree it is more important the altered rules are introduced in a controlled way, to ensure there are no hitches as councils employ the new systems.

Welcoming the Live Music Act’s ascendancy into law yesterday, the boss of one of the bodies who campaigned for the new law, UK Music’s Jo Dipple, told CMU: “For a private member’s bill to receive royal assent is a monumental achievement, even more so for one that is introduced in the House Of Lords. This has happened only five times in the past decade. The assent of today’s Act is the result of a dogged commitment to musicians combined with outstanding parliamentary skills. UK Music thanks Lord Clement-Jones and Don Foster MP for their work”.

She continued: “The global success of our industry is dependent on a flourishing network of small venues, where tomorrow’s headliners can learn their craft and develop their career. Allowing these venues the freedom to host live music is a huge boost for British artists and means more opportunities for developing talent, as well as enriching our local communities and the economy overall”.

Meanwhile John Smith, General Secretary of the Musician’s Union, added: “We would like to thank all of the MPs and Lords who have been involved in this process. The MU has been lobbying for changes to the Licensing Act for many years now, and this exemption is fantastic news for musicians and will be a real boost for live music. We look forward to the implementation of the Act later this year and we will be working with the government to ensure that the Act has maximum impact”.

Concurrent to all this, the government itself is also reviewing licensing rules, so a further relaxation of regulation could come up further down the line somewhere.

Though, as previously reported, none of this applies north of the border in Scotland, where grass roots promoters are facing a change in licensing rules in the other direction that could add to the bureaucracy involved in staging small events, including free gigs.

Councils around Scotland are considering how to put new rules passed by the Scottish Parliament into effect as we speak. Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, a day of creative protest about the new licensing arrangements is planned for 1 Apr.

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