Live music: government backs Lib Dem peer’s bill

The Publican reports:

Live Music Bill gets government backing

Baroness Rawlings, a government spokesperson, told the House of Lords the coalition will help the private members’ Bill become law, but with caveats.

The Bill, tabled by Lib Dem Lord Clement-Jones, includes plans to offer a licensing exemption to pubs that host gigs attracting an audience of 200 or fewer. It tallies with The Publican’s own Listen Up! campaign.

But Baroness Rawlings said certain criteria had to be met for the Bill to get the coalition’s full support…

Lord Clement-Jones said he was “delighted” the Bill had received such a “positive reception”.

He later added: “The Live Music Bill will benefit hundreds of small pubs, restaurants and church and community halls who want live music at their venue by generally removing the need to apply for a complicated licence.

“I’m glad the government has responded so positively to this Bill and I look forward to working with them to fulfil the coalition agreement’s pledge to put an end to red tape and bureaucracy.” (Hat-tip: Vote Clegg, Get Clegg)

This is an issue which Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster has also been long campaigning on because, as he wrote for last summer,

Large premises such as Earls Court or the O2 Arena have had great success. But new artists need a place to hone their craft and gig goers want a diverse music culture. Meanwhile, small venues such as pubs, clubs and cafés have suffered in the recession. They need the freedom to stage music events and get punters through their doors.

What they have instead is the Licensing Act 2003, which is nothing short of a bureaucratic minefield. The Act removed previous exemptions for smaller performances and requires most live music to have a licence. For too many organisers and venue owners, it simply isn’t worth the effort. Even when music isn’t the main focus – when a restaurant only wants a pianist in the corner – the owners have to fill out the same amount of paperwork as they would for a much larger venue. Instead, they don’t bother, and a musician is out of a job.

The House of Commons DCMS Select Committee concluded that the Act hampered live music performances, especially ones by young musicians. The previous government had promised an ‘explosion’ in live music; instead, they are impeding the next generation of performers. A DCMS report claimed that live music was ‘thriving’, but could provide no evidence that this was true in small venues.

Making it easier for smaller venues to put on live music would not open the floodgates for anti-social behaviour, as some fear. There’s no evidence that staging live music leads to crime or disorder any more than other kinds of public gathering. Excessively noisy premises can already be served noise abatement orders under the Environmental Protection Act, or fined under the Clean Neighbourhood and Environment Act. And the exemptions we have been calling for would still be subject to review should residents complain.

The last government dithered endlessly in the face of our fears, offering no fewer than nine consultations and no improvements. Our Live Music Bill, championed by Lord Clement-Jones, made impressive headway but didn’t receive the government support it needed to get onto the statute books.

Now, with a change of government and a commitment in the Coalition agreement on live music, things are looking rather different.

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