Live music industry calls for change in licensing laws for entertainment events

06.12.2016: Leading figures from across the live music industry today (Tuesday June 12) called for a change in gig venue licensing to make it easier to stage events and help the industry thrive.

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06.12.2016: Leading figures from across the live music industry today (Tuesday June 12) called for a change in gig venue licensing to make it easier to stage events and help the industry thrive.

They want an amendment to the law which would ensure cultural benefits to the community are considered by local authorities when they make decisions about the award of music licences.

The House Of Lords is undertaking a year-long investigation into the effectiveness of the Licensing Act 2003, which provides the framework for music venues to operate.

It called Paul Latham, Chair of the UK Live Music Group, Alex Mann, live music official of the Musicians’ Union, and Mark Davyd, Chief Executive of the Music Venue Trust, to give evidence to a select committee this morning.

Together they want to see the introduction of a new “objective” in the decision-making process which would take account of the positive cultural impact of staging an event. At present authorities are not obliged to consider the wider benefits of music and entertainment in the community and instead focus on the negative impact of applications. These are issues concerning crime and disorder, public safety, public nuisance and protection of children.

Their calls come ahead of a Lords debate tomorrow (Wednesday) on the Policing and Crime Bill in which Lord Clement-Jones will propose an amendment that would pave the way for this new provision.

Mr Latham, who is also chief operating officer of Live Nation, said:

“As leading venue operators across the UK we strive to bring a ‘best in class’ operation to all our venues and that includes mutual learnings throughout our venue portfolio. At all times we try to work progressively with the respective local authorities to share our learnings.

“Unfortunately not all local authorities are like-minded and their interpretations of the Licensing Act are not always helpful, or consistent, which is frustrating and creates obstacles for venue operators at all levels.”

Mr Davyd said:

“Licensing is just one of many areas of the legal framework around grassroots music venues that is contributing to their rapid decline.

“In the case of licensing, Music Venue Trust is not asking that a special case be made for grassroots venues, rather, we believe a further push to support the intent of the Licensing Act 2003 – and the subsequent Live Music Act 2012 – is required so these culturally and socially important spaces achieve parity in the manner in which the licensing framework handles and supports them.

We want to see grassroots music venues acknowledged and respected alongside theatres and arts centres as spaces that are vital to the health, wealth and happiness of the UK.”

Mr Mann said:

“Since the introduction of the Licensing Act in 2003 the MU has maintained that live music should not be licensed and remains committed to ensuring that if licensing conditions are to be placed upon venues, then they are for the good, not the detriment of the venue.

“Our members rely heavily on venues being able to remain open in order to provide places to perform and develop their craft, not to mention the crucial role that live music plays within our communities and cultural heritage.

“The Licensing Act’s existing objectives specifically made regulation of live music a public order issue, so we feel that a better balance is needed here, which acknowledges and reflects the cultural impact of live music.”

UK Music, the umbrella body for the commercial music industry, is also supporting the amendment.

Chief Executive of UK Music Jo Dipple said:

“Music venues are a vital element of the UK’s night-time economy and provide a significant number of jobs, but often operate on very slim margins. We should be doing everything we can to help these businesses thrive.

“Venue operators are obliged to comply with other areas of legislation to ensure they do not cause disturbance or nuisance and we think the positive benefits of gigs should be an important consideration.”

Lord Clement-Jones is calling for a fifth licensing objective which would consider the “social or cultural activities” of an application.

Latest figures compiled by UK Music show the live music industry was worth £904 million (gross value added to the UK economy) and employed 25,150.

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