If you ever attend small backroom gigs, are interested in new emerging talent – we urge you to support this proposal.

Live Music Bill 2011

Over the past year a proposed piece of legislation to simplify the law concerning live music has made progress in the Houses of Parliament. The Live Music Bill initially introduced to the House of Lords by Lib Dem Peer Tim Clement-Jones and now promoted in the Commons by Bath MP Don Foster creates clear exemptions to free up the performance of live music.

Whilst the live music scene for established acts and large venues in the UK is relatively strong, any semblance of a grassroots music scene in England and Wales is in part restricted by the Licensing Act 2003. This Act requires pubs, clubs or similar venues to have a license for almost any live music performance that may take place on its premises, without necessarily considering how small, innocuous or spontaneous. The process to apply for live music can be complicated, expensive and bureaucratic. Live music performed without permission can be sanctioned with criminal penalties.

Section 177 of the 2003 Act is sometimes cited as a limited exemption. However, it is so muddled and badly worded that there is little evidence it has ever been possible to successfully claim an exemption for live music under it. Guidance issued by central Government to local authorities is also confused on live music, meaning Councils in some areas have interpreted the legislation differently to others.

The Live Music Bill enables unamplified music to be played anywhere between 8am and 11pm without a license, ending the situation where the playing of a piano in a street could be subject to fines. Where there are up to 200 people present in a pub or restaurant, or in workplaces such as a hospital or school, live music can also be performed between 8am and 11pm without a licence under the Act.

The Live Music Bill has therefore been prepared as a modest way to tidy up the problems created by the 2003 Act to provide for a licensing regime that will enable small venues to develop bands, discover new talent and act as beacons for local music scenes.

Most established artists started out in their local areas, making the foundation of a successful national music industry dependent on the opportunities available to musicians where the Live Music Bill seeks to help.

The Bill has cross-party support. The Coalition is committed to untangling the bureaucracy of live music and Labour recognises the Live Music Bill succeeds where the 2003 Act failed. The Local Government Association opposed earlier drafts but now explicitly support the Bill. The Government have committed to publishing revised guidance to address issues residents associations have raised.

On 20th January, the Live Music Bill should have its final stage in the House of Commons, yet arcane Parliamentary procedures mean it is not certain it will be reached.

In order to keep the Bill alive I would strongly urge you to lobby your MP (To contact your MP – search by postcode here)

Ask them to give the Bill their backing and be present in the Commons on the 20th January.

Tom Kiehl

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