A considerable number of Britain's grass-roots venues are turning away from staging live performances, a new government-commissioned report has found.

The "Survey of live music in England in Wales in 2007," published today by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, shows that the proportion of secondary venues showcasing live music had decreased by 5 percentage points in 2007 compared with 2004. The 2007 survey found that 42% of venues had put on live music in the previous 12 months, whereas the corresponding figure had been 47% in 2004.

The new study, conducted by BMRB Social Research for the DCMS, also reported that 15% of those venues surveyed had staged live music regularly -- at least six times within 12 months -- vs. 19% in 2004.

Politicians immediately took the opportunity to aim barbs at the ruling Labour Party. A member of the Liberal Democrat party Don Foster, the member of parliament whose party brief covers the DCMS, blamed Labour's Licensing Act 2003, which has been criticised for being too restrictive on organizers of small scale music events.

"This survey provides the clearest indication yet that the explosion in live music promised by the government clearly has not happened," Foster said in a statement.

"The Liberal Democrats repeatedly warned that the Licensing Act was a missed opportunity for live music. While a range of factors have contributed to this decrease, there is no doubt that the Licensing Act has dealt a serious blow to the growth of live music in this country."

However, the report claimed commercial considerations, and not the Licensing Act, were the major factor in decisions on whether secondary venues put on live music.

"This is best illustrated by the fact that only a small proportion of venues have started or stopped providing live music since the introduction of the Act," the report notes, "and that very few of these venues cited the Act as a factor in their decisions to start to stop live music."

As part of a wider boost for the country's live music scene, the British government today pledged a £500,000 ($1 billion) in funding to develop a dozen professionally fitted-out rehearsal rooms for youths over a two-year period.

"The live music industry is clearly booming but there hasn't yet been the increase in live music in small venues such as restaurants that we had hoped for," comments culture secretary James Purnell in a statement. "I want to do everything we can to support live music. To help ensure that, we will explore exemptions for some venues. Clearly we'd only be looking at exemptions for events that don't cause public nuisance or compromise public safety."

Purnell continues, "Nurturing young bands and artists and making sure they have a place to play is absolutely essential."

The cash injection follows the July publication of a report by the Live Music Forum, which found that 43% of young people who wanted to participate in music projects did not, citing lack of facilities or huge costs. The DCMS established the Live Music Forum in early 2004 to monitor the impact of the then-new licensing laws for live entertainment.

Despite the apparent downward trend in the market for secondary music venues, the overall live business in Britain is booming. According to figures reported by the DCMS, live music was worth £743 million ($1.486 billion) in 2007, up 8% from 2006. And from July and October 2006, 28% of adults said they attended a live concert in the past year, up from 26% during the same period in 2005.