MusicTank’s Big Fight Bill

The University Of Westminster’s next MusicTank forum is getting big fight billing, as U.K. Music chief Fergal Sharkey and Metropolitan Police chief inspector Adrian Studd are due to square up over venue licensing.

Sharkey will address the gathering, which takes place in the basement of the PRS building in London’s Berners Street Oct. 13, with a repeat of his seemingly logical argument that the licensing act is causing small venues to stop promoting live music.

He says the cost and drag of paperwork are enough to deter some landlords, particularly for lower-capacity rooms. He believes that making exemptions for smaller venues will lead to an increase in the number of pubs prepared to stage live music.

The next point of discussion will be about how much noise they can make. It will focus on certain regions, such as the Digbeth area of Birmingham, where venues have had their live entertainment cut short by noise-abatement orders.

The most recent of these venues, The Rainbow, relies heavily on music concerts to get by, and had its plans to install a £30,000 soundproof roof hampered by their noise-abatement order.

Rainbow landlord Kent Davis will also address the event, pleading for joined-up thinking and a pragmatic approach to noise-abatement issues.

Noise Abatement Society head Lisa Lavia and Mark Duval, leader of policy development for local councils’ organisation LACORS, will be among those ducking and weaving.

The scrap with police chief Studd, who’s described as “the brains behind Form 696,” will no doubt have Sharkey insisting the Met should scrap it.

Form 696 required venues to disclose the name, age, address and phone number of artists and promoters, along with details of the target audience and music style.

More than 50 music organisations opposing the form sent a complaint to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. It asked the EHRC to intervene because the form was “potentially racist.”

The Met has agreed to drop the bit about “music genre,” which was seen as a way for the force to take a closer look at venues putting on types of music known for attracting certain ethnic groups.

Chief superintendent Richard Martin, who is head of the Met’s clubs and vice unit, admitted there had been “some clumsy bits” in Form 696.

In May, during a review of the 2003 Licensing Act, the House Of Commons’ culture, media and sport select committee said the form should be scrapped. Sharkey wants to know why the government ignored it.

MusicTank’s ringside seats are £35, with concessions for MusicTank and other trade body members, and are available at musictank.co.uk.