UK small venues will be given a big boost by ‘Live Music Act’, industry expert declares

UK Music's boss says the new bill ends 'the stigma' that has surrounded live music

UK small venues have been handed a huge boost by the passing of the ‘Live Music Bill’, an industry expert has said.

The bill, which was cleared by the House Of Commons on Friday (January 20), means that any venue with a capacity of under 200 will no longer have to apply for a licence to host live music or pay the cost involved in acquiring a licence, as they had previously had been forced to under the 2003 Licensing Act. This means that pubs, small gig venues and nightclubs are free to host live music without a licence.

The bill still has to pass through the House Of Lords, but according to Don Foster, the MP who proposed it, there is little chance of any kind of block from the UK parliament’s second chamber.

A number of the UK’s small venues, including Liverpool’s Masque Theatre, Leicester’s Charlotte and Sheffield’s Boardwalk have closed in recent months leading NME to launch a campaign to try and raise awareness about the plight of small venues.

But, according to Jo Dipple, the acting chief executive of UK Music, the umbrella organisation which represents UK’s commercial music business, the House Of Commons decision to pass the ‘Live Music Bill’ is a massive boost for the UK’s small venues and takes away “the stigma” that has surrounded the staging of live music in pubs and small venues around the UK.

Speaking to NME, Dipple said she believed the bill would encourage pubs all over the country to put on more gigs and would remove the idea that there was a lot of hassle involved in staging shows.

She said of the effect the bill could have: “It will definitely be a boost for small venues when the act comes into force. It’ll give venues clarity to know that as long as they’ve got an audience of under 200, that they can put on live music without an additional cost. I think the 2003 Licensing Act created a stigma around live music and this will now take that stigma from live music in this country”.

Dipple also said that she firmly believed that the lengthy process of applying for a licence had definitely put venues off from hosting live music and had made it hard for up and coming musicians to find places to play.

She said of this: “The 2003 Licensing Act dealt music a harsh blow. Whereas before musicians knew they could just play in a bar or pub, it created a whole swathe of bureaucracy and I think that the bureaucracy will have put a lot of venues off”.

Dipple also said that she hoped the relaxation of licensing laws would lead to struggling pubs putting on live music to help boost their takings and this would give up and coming musicians more opportunities to play live.

She said: “There are 14 pubs closing each week in this country and though we haven’t got any evidence to say that the lack of live music contributes to this, people like listening to music in their local venues and though pubs are being hit hard by the economic downturn, they’d definitely be in a stronger position if they could offer live music”.