The Law Nobody Wants

As the Dec. 3 deadline for the government’s consultation on the deregulation of the Licensing Act 2003 drew nearer, it became doubtful if anyone in the UK music industry wanted it to remain in its present form.

As part of the UK Live Music Group, ILMC is asking music companies and musicians to send letters supporting proposals put forward by John Penrose, a minister for culture, media and sport who would make it much easier for small venues to stage live music shows.

Although former Live Music Forum chairman Feargal Sharkey originally urged pubs and venues to apply for licenses because “live music is, for the majority of us, part of our everyday lives,” the 2003 Act provoked controversy because it introduced a single scheme for licensing premises that supply alcohol and provide entertainment.

The terms of the Act require any gig or live music performance, no matter how small, to obtain local authority permission.

The 2003 legislation covers a wide range of entertainment including school plays, Punch and Judy shows, folk duos in pubs, and brass bands playing in public parks.

Penrose says he wants to “set a match to all this nonsense and trust sensible people to act sensibly, with regulation retained only where rightly needed to keep audiences and performances safe.”

“Pointless bureaucracy and license fees imposed on community groups trying to put on simple amateur productions and fundraising events sap energy and deaden people’s desire to get involved,” he said.

The law also places a bureaucratic burden upon hard-hit pubs, restaurants and bars, resulting in fewer opportunities for musicians to play before an audience.

Under Penrose’s proposals, events under a 5,000 capacity would not require a license.

The local authorities would retain all the existing powers that current laws have given them to deal with potential disturbances or noise-related complaints.

Those in favour of retaining the act claim that deregulation will lead to a rise in noise pollution and public disorder, although recent government research shows there are more complaints about burglar alarms and barking dogs than entertainment premises.