Government u-turn on cutting red tape for live music

The UK has a truly absurd system for licensing ‘entertainment’ – under which any pub wanting to host a single guitar player, or poetry reader, or choir, or just about any other form of performance needs to get a council licence, which comes with high costs and piles of forms.

The coalition government has made very encouraging promises that it would cut this red tape, and indeed has been feeding suggestions to the press that it would abolish music licensing altogether.

Now the Live Music Forum – the campaign group that has been leading the rebellion against these ridiculous laws – reveals that, in fact, the new plans would increase the red tape on live performance. Read their detailed analysis here.

For all premises with alcohol licences – ie, most of them – their existing licences would stand. Licenses will still be necessary for everything from carol singing to poetry reading. In addition, local authorities’ powers to refuse licences will be increased, as will the penalties for ‘unregulated entertainment’.

This is a shocking disappointment, when so many odes have been made in the other direction, and shows that reducing regulation is a lot harder than talking about it. But it is worth remembering that the tightening of local authorities’ powers over entertainment was first proposed last year, in the government’s consultation ‘Rebalancing the Licensing Act’ (we responded to the consultation in a Manifesto Club briefing).

The Live Music Forum is now reaffirming its backing for Lord Clement Jones’ bill, which would return the long-standing exemption from licensing for ‘two musicians in a bar’. It does indeed seem like the best option, and the Manifesto Club wholeheartedly supports this.