Private members’ bill aims to liberalise UK live music licensing laws

UK Music CEO Feargal Sharkey gives his support to the Liberal Democrat proposal

A new private members’ bill aiming to persuade the government to relax its laws on licensing for live music in small venues has been introduced by Liberal Democrat peer Tim Clement-Jones.

The Live Music bill has already won support from music industry umbrella group UK Music, partly thanks to its proposal to allow small venues to put on live music without having to obtain a live entertainment license.

“The essence of my bill is that if the public are unhappy about a venue putting on live music they can request a review of the license for that premises,” Clement-Jones told Music Week.

Clement-Jones‘ proposal comes in the wake of the government rejecting calls from the House Of Commons Culture, Media And Sport Committee to amend the Licensing Act 2003 in order to make the live music sector stronger.

His bill has already passed an initial reading in the House Of Lords, and a second reading is scheduled for “November or December,” according to Clement-Jones, who went on to criticise some members of the government’s Department For Culture Media And Sport (DCMS) for not supporting the live music sector.

He said: “There are a number of DCMS people that show great antipathy toward live music, but they have to realise that historically the biggest British bands started out in their local pubs and if we take that away from young musicians, then the future of the UK music industry itself is jeopardised.”

UK Music CEO (and former Undertones frontman) Feargal Sharkey declared his support for the Live Music bill, stating that it would deal with some of the issues raised by the controversial Form 696, which is used by police in some London boroughs for risk assessment of gigs.

“What is most surprising is that British music must now rely on opposition parties to support the future of our industry,” Sharkey said. “This is opposition legislation specifically designed to tackle the key issues which damage our industry, and which provide a platform for the unattractive and immoral principles of Form 696.”

Form 696 has drawn criticism from various music industry figures, including Jon McClure of Reverend And The Makers, who set up a petition calling for its scrapping at Petitions.number10.gov.uk.

In response to Clement-Jones‘ new bill, the DCMS told NME.COM: “You don’t have to look far to find live music in England and Wales. In fact this sector is booming right now with more venues licensed to put on live music than in previous years. It’s also very cheap and easy now to obtain a license to host live music events compared with under the previous licensing regime, so we are far from convinced there is a problem. There always has to be a balance between supporting live music and protecting residents from noise. We think the licensing laws have got that balance right, but we continue to keep the situation under review.”