Victory Lap: Musician Bernard Butler, Lord Tim Clement-Jones, UK Music Chairman Andy Heath, singer Martina Topley-Bird, UK Music CEO Jo Dipple and MU General Secretary John Smith at a reception to celebrate the passing of the UK's Live Music Act held at London's Houses of Parliament.
Following years of lobbying from the British music industry, a small but important shake-up of the United Kingdom's grass roots music scene is set to occur when the Live Music Act comes into effect on October 1 2012.
First introduced by Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Tim Clement-Jones in July 2010 as a Private Members Bill in the House of Lords, the Live Music Bill gained Royal Assent March 8, passing the bill into British law. The Act sets out to remove much of the bureaucracy currently attached to hosting gigs in small-capacity U.K. venues. Most importantly, it exempts venues with a capacity of 200 persons or fewer from the need to obtain a local authority license for the performance of live music between 8am and 11pm. The Act also states that there will be no audience limit for performances of unamplified live music.
Prior to the passing of the Live Music Act, which follows a near-decade of lobbying, small U.K. venues had to apply for permission to their local council authority for permission to host live music events (as dictated by the 2003 Licensing Act). The bureaucratic red tape and costs involved in doing so is widely credited with deterring many U.K. venue owners from staging live music events, therefore significantly reducing the number of small venues available for live musicians throughout the U.K.
"This will mean a whole lot of small venues - not primarily music venues, but many pubs, restaurants and wine bars - are going to be able to put on live music without any hassle," Musicians' Union (MU) General Secretary John Smith told Billboard.biz, at a reception to celebrate the Act's passing, held at London's Houses of Parliament.
"It will form a breeding ground for new acts. There's a whole litany of acts that have started in smaller venues and I think it's going to open the doors for many more. The whole ecology [of the music industry] should benefit from it," Smith went on to say, calling the Act a "very, very rare political victory."
Speaking at the well-attended reception, which also saw live performances from British singer Martina Topley-Bird and indie act Daytona Lights, Jo Dipple, recently installed chief executive of umbrella trade group U.K. Music, called the Live Music Act a "historic" piece of legislation that "has the potential to create thousands of musicians."
"The last thing to come out the House of Lords was the Digital Economy Act and we all know what's happened - or didn't happen - with that," Dipple said, referring to the U.K.'s long-delayed anti-piracy Act, which was given Royal Assent in April 2010, but has yet to be implemented, largely due to now-resolved legal challenges from British ISPs BT and TalkTalk.
"But, here we are. And we have something great, an act of parliament promoting music in the very heart of our communities," Dipple went on to say, later referencing "Joy Division, the Sex Pistols, Rolling Stones, The Who" as just some of the many British bands, who started out playing tiny capacity pubs and venues.
The Live Music Act has also been welcomed by the wider music community with Sting among the artists keen to praise the initiative. "It's great news that the campaign has been successful and small venues will be able to hold live music events without a lisence," said the artist in a statement. "Such venues are the essential shop floor of the U.K.'s multi-million pound music industry."
Guy Garvey, singer with Mercury Prize winning rock band Elbow, also welcomed the Act's potential significance by referencing back to his group's origins playing a tiny pub in its native North West of England. "The encouragement the landlord and the friends that gathered back then gave us kept us writing and playing long enough to make a life from our passion," Garvey stated. "This result is a very important step towards easing the path for musicians of tomorrow."
According to estimates from U.K. collecting society PRS for Music, the value of live music in the 2010 to the U.K. was £1.48 billion.