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Keep music live and don’t turn off the lights – a guest blog from MEP Rory Palmer

The MEP discusses the effects of the European Commission's Ecodesign Directive on venues

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12/07/18: Looking back at my phone photos from the superb Frank Turner gig I was at a few weeks ago it struck me that good, well curated lighting is integral to the experience of live music. That's why artists give lots of careful and creative thought to the lighting that accompanies their music; they know that if the lighting isn't quite right, the show won't be as perfect as it should be.

Rory Palmer, MEP for the East Midlands

It's a tough environment for live music venues today; a third of live venues have closed their doors for good in the last few years. On top of increasing costs, people have less cash in their pocket and are going to fewer shows, and property developers are ready to swoop for prime city centre real estate – the last thing our venues need is another big challenge. That's why when I heard about the possible changes to regulations on light bulbs used for stage lighting, I was determined to do something to help protect our live music venues and theatres.

The European Commission's Ecodesign Directive seeks to improve energy efficiency across a number of products, including stage lighting. I don't argue against the sensible intention of saving energy but the unforeseen consequences of this, as things stand, for live music venues and theatres would be extremely detrimental.

Stage lighting is expensive; each individual lamp can cost hundreds of pounds, thousands for the most sophisticated lights. The Ecodesign Directive would force venues to get rid of traditional tungsten and arc bulbs, and even some newer LED sets, and from 2020 replace them with new bulbs. Up until this point, venues have been protected by an exemption which recognised the unique cost and upheaval such proposals would have on the live entertainment industry.

There are two major problems with the proposals. Firstly, bulbs that would comply with the new regulations and meet the needs of live music venues do not currently exist, meaning that live venues would have to use inferior products compromising artistic quality.

Secondly, even if such technology did exist, the cost of replacing all existing stage lighting would be excessive, estimated at £180 million for theatres alone. This would have an enormous impact, particularly on smaller venues, and venue mangers and lighting experts at the much-loved Cookie in Leicester and the Lace Market Theatre in Nottingham have told me that many venues would be forced to close if the plans are introduced as they currently stand. We cannot allow this to happen.

Rory Palmer MEP visits The Cookie, Leicester

We need to find a solution. I have no doubt that the threat to venues is an unintended consequence, but the Commission needs a way of enabling venues to continue to provide high-quality entertainment without undermining efforts to improve energy efficiency.

In the past few weeks I’ve been making the case for theatres and music venues, speaking in the European Parliament, meeting with the Chief Executive of UK Music Michael Dugher, and visiting theatres and live music venues across the East Midlands to get a better understanding of the real impact that these proposals would have. The message is clear; these plans need to be looked at again.

Based on what I've heard from venues and the music industry and my own view that we need to support our grassroots music venues and live ventures, I will  continue to make the make the case for compromise. I believe the  goodwill is there amongst all parties to find an outcome that works for entertainment venues without putting the long-term drive for energy efficiency at risk. A sensible compromise on this would be music to the ears for venues in my region and across the country.

Rory Palmer is Labour member of the European Parliament for the East Midlands.

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