The U.K. Culture, Media and Sport Committee has recommended the scrapping of a controversial policing system for live music events, and has urged the government to exempt small venues from the need to obtain a license for the performance of live music.
In its report assessing the 2003 Licensing Act, the parliamentary committee of MPs recommends exemption of live music licenses for venues with a capacity of 200 persons or less. The process of applying for such a license can be costly and time-consuming, according to evidence heard by the committee, which can deter small venues such as pubs in applying.
“This situation is of concern to all those who want to encourage live music, as smaller and secondary venues are very important to the long-term health of the music industry, playing an important part in the development of new artists and minority genres of music and adding to [the] general diversity of cultural entertainment available to the public,” the report stated. It also noted that the exemptions for smaller venues that were included in the original Act had not been effective.
There was also concern at the “linkage of live music and public order issues by the Act and its accompanying guidance.”
“In the Committee’s view music should not automatically be treated as a disruptive activity, which will inevitably lead to nuisance and disorder,” the report stated.
In November, Billboard.biz revealed concerns about Metropolitan Police measures in London, with Feargal Sharkey, CEO of industry umbrella group U.K. Music complaining about the use of Form 696. It requires details of the type of music and the names, aliases, phone numbers and addresses of performers 14 days in advance as part of any license application.
The report stated that committee members were “convinced by the evidence presented by Feargal Sharkey, that police authorities are taking an increasingly authoritarian approach, especially the Metropolitan Police who have asked London licensing authorities to include new conditions for the performance of live music ‘in the interests of public order and the prevention of terrorism,’ as set out in their Promotion and Event Assessment Form (form 696).”
It concludes that form 696 “goes beyond the Act and its guidance to impose unreasonable conditions on events and recommends that it should be scrapped.”
Sharkey welcomed the findings of the committee. “As with the restrictions on small venues, Form 696 is a wholly unnecessary impediment to live music and has become a mandatory licensing condition on more than 70 premises in 21 London boroughs,” he said in a statement. “U.K. Music has been vocal amongst musicians, civil liberty campaigners and members of the public who want to see this counter-productive and morally questionable risk assessment form scrapped. I am delighted the Committee feels the same way.”
The report also recommends the reintroduction of the “two-in-a-bar” exemption, enabling venues of any size to put on a performance of non-amplified music by one or two musicians.
Committee Chairman John Whittingdale said in a statement that the Act had broadly been a success, but was not working in some areas.
“The licensing requirements are still too bureaucratic and costly – particularly for non-commercial groups such as sports clubs, not-for-profit establishments and organisers of occasional events,” he said. “We were also particularly concerned to hear of the way the Act may be hampering live music performances especially by young musicians, who often get their first break though performing live at small venues such as pubs. Our report calls on the government to relax restrictions in this area, which in some cases are unnecessarily draconian, and in others simply absurd.”