EVENT TRANSCRIPT ARCHIVE. UK MUSIC INDUSTRY BUSINESS.

Live Or Unplugged: How Will YOU Perform Under The New Licensing Act?

Live or unplugged: How will YOU perform under the new Licensing Act?

Want to know the timetable for the Act’s implementation? Click here

1. KEYNOTE – FEARGAL SHARKEY

Feargal Sharkey spoke from the position of Chair of the Live Music Forum and not as a government spokesman on the licensing act! Comments and viewpoints should be taken in that context.

The end is in sight for carol singing in supermarkets, band concerts in parks and churches…spontaneously singing happy birthday in a restaurant will get you in trouble…it’s the battle over last orders for live music – that’s just a short selection from the 427,000 pages that are returned when you type “Licensing Act” UK into Google, which illustrates the extraordinary level of interest in this bill and it’s possible impact. The bill is now an act, which will come into force over the next 12 months or so.

While there are reservations about the act, it does contain many aspects that can do a lot to promote the availability of and access to live music, which I would like to focus on.

During the passage of the bill the government gave a commitment to establish the live music forum, to monitor the implementation of the act and fulfil its duty to promote live music overall.

The Forum has recently commissioned Mori to carry out the first survey of its kind to asses the shape of live music in England and Wales by interviewing 1300 people, promoters, musicians, pubs, clubs – this is a very important part of our work as it will help provide the baseline data that we need for other research. The establishment of the forum has put the issue of live music on the public agenda; it will be a challenge for all of us to maintain that profile over the next couple of years.

The secretary of state will issue notes of guidance to local authorities on how to implement the act. Tonight, (July 6 ’04), members of the House of Lords will begin debating those Notes of Guidance; parliament can then approve or reject the notes of guidance but not amend them. If they are rejected the whole process will start again.

Once the Notes of Guidance are approved, local authorities will draft their new local licensing policies. They are required to consult with people who are representatives for the area. After that, new rules will come into effect approximately at the turn of the year, but there is no fixed date. Those local representatives are residents, and people from the area that work in live music, so it’s important that we act as representatives in our own areas.

The Notes of Guidance stress the importance of live music; the need to encourage and promote live music; the need to avoid measures which deter live music; the need to balance the potential for disturbance against the wider cultural benefits a vibrant local live music scene can bring to the community as a whole; the need for systems to allow local policies to be revised should the licensing of live music be deterred.

There is the recommendation that local authorities should license their own public spaces for the use of live music – some of you might consider that there’s an opportunity here for local musicians, events organisers, promoters, agents, managers and local licensees to work with and help local authorities make the best possible use of those public spaces. Perhaps something as simple as a rehearsal room, or on a grander scale, but either way it will all be decided by the local licensing policies, and that’s why they are so important.

This is why the Forum believes that it is important to cooperate with local authorities to make sure that live music continues to flourish at a local grass roots level. A lot of work has already gone into this. The Forum is currently looking into ways to bring external investment into the industry, working with sponsors and advertisers, and encouraging those involved in live music to engage with local authorities over the issues at stake.

As part of our efforts, members of the Forum have spent some time working with other organisations like the Musician’s Union to help develop strategies to inform both sides of this new licensing process: local authorities and local licensees. We want to ensure that the right message and the right information are being sent out.

The Minister for Arts, Estelle Morris, made a very telling observation:
‘There may be all kinds of rhetoric surrounding the creation of the Live Music Forum, however there’s a real opportunity here to do something that will truly benefit live music; it is up to us, the industry as a whole, to take advantage of that and do what we can to ensure that what we leave behind is a legacy that will outlast us all.’

2. PANEL RESPONSE
(DC – Osborne Clarke)
I became involved with the licensing bill about 2 years ago, concentrating on the entertainment side. It was my view that the bill as drafted was treating entertainment in all of its forms as an add-on to what the government wanted, so far as alcohol licensing was concerned. The original bill was clearly deficient.

We therefore worked quite closely to try and develop what we felt was a better way forward as far as live music and entertainment was concerned. The difficulty, which has continued in the guidance, was that we were receiving mixed messages. The act stated what the true position was, when issues were raised with the DCMS, they were giving it a different slant.

Unfortunately it’s not the DCMS who will make decisions about enforcement, it will be the enforcement agencies and also the court who will decide what the words actually mean.

Dumas’s view was that this act would be enforced as we say, as opposed to as the act says. We dealt with those messages and got our point across quite fairly and quite reasonably – hence the approach taken by the Lords – I was hoping that would be continued by the guidance.

Unfortunately the guidance is also misleading. It still takes the view that certain areas of the act are clear and unambiguous in what they state, particularly about crime at events and incidental exemption amongst others. This isn’t the case and it needs to be amended.

A lot will depend on the policies that are going to be produced by the local authorities. If they follow the guidance it won’t be too bad. If their policies are based on what the act says it won’t be the same thing. That is why Feargal is right to say that it is vitally important to get involved with local authorities and licensing authorities now, to make sure that their policies reflect the guidance and your views on the guidance.

(JS – Musician’s Union)
We have to live within the framework of the act. It’s there already, it will be very difficult to get it amended, and the guidance can only be changed by order of the Secretary of State. Dale has highlighted some of the deficiencies, but we have to try and make the best of it. That’s why we are taking the initiative. Estelle Morris has given us a good opportunity to work together and do something about it.

Going back, we campaigned for many years against the current PEL regime. The “two-in-a-bar” exemption for two artists was always a nonsense and always seemed very unfair as two musicians can make as much noise as five depending on the kind of music and what instruments they are playing. We argued a lot about this and didn’t get anywhere.

When we knew that this bill was on the horizon our policy was to get rid of licensing music altogether. The analogy we drew was big screen sport in pubs, which wasn’t licensed, and still won’t be under the new act.

There’s a lot of publicity about binge drinking, and we will see it during Euro 2004 – people will be watching football and drinking a lot. Our research, albeit on a small scale, said the opposite; that when music is being performed people still buy a drink, but they also sit down and listen. It has a civilizing influence, whatever kind of music it is, and is not an encouragement to binge drink.

That was our fundamental difference, and we still believe that live music shouldn’t be licensed, but it was clear we weren’t getting anywhere with that.

There was a war of words, and we managed to get some support – more from the Lords than the Commons – though we also had criticism. We had a letter from the Association of Chief Police Officers that equated live music to drug culture and guns. When this is presented to the Lords it’s a difficult argument to counter and we knew we were going to lose our fight when we saw that.

However, Estelle Morris was given the job of putting the Live Music Forum together. I was involved in this and we were given the task of looking at the two aspects of the licensing act.

First, how venues or licensees are going to perceive these new regulations, what we can do to reassure them about it and telling them to get in touch with us if it’s not OK.

Secondly, getting the message to licensing authorities; that their licensing policy has to contain a statement giving a commitment to live music. We’ve produced a model letter that we are putting in our journal to our members and it’s on the MU web site. It quotes two bits of the guidance notes to remind the local authority what they have to do.

The MU has been working with the Local Government Authority, a local government regulation body and the British Beer and Pub Association, and produced a leaflet for venues with the slogan ‘Music To Your Ears’ highlighting the benefits of live music, with information about the act.

We are also producing a live music kit that talks about PRS licensing, promotion and marketing, to try and give venue owners some tips. We are going to keep developing this to raise the profile in the lead up to the implementation of the new act.

We are going to give this kit to musicians so they can actually hand it to the people who effectively employ them, and ask them to give us a ring if there is anything they want to know. The PRS have offered a helpline as well, so it is exciting that the industry is pulling together to help live music.

(AD – Channelfly)
Currently Channel Fly own and operate five venues in London, Cardiff, York, Liverpool and Glasgow. Operating under the Barfly banner, they are all open 6/7 nights a week, typically with 3 bands a night, amounting to roughly 5000 live performances a year.

We started promoting in about 1996 with a small venue that held about 200 people. We’ve grown from that platform over the past 4 or 5 years and we have promoted a number of artists who have gone on to be successful: Coldplay, Franz Ferdinand, Muse and the Stereophonics.

We’ve had a look through the guidance notes and on the whole what comes out of them is really good. At the heart of them is a partnership proposition between venue owners and local authorities. For us that makes perfect sense – that’s what we need in order for us to be able to develop the business successfully and safely. It’s the partnership that is the key to the guidance notes. If that actually works then the act and the guidance notes will make a real difference and be beneficial.

How the guidance notes get enforced and how the partnership comes about is the tricky part. In practice it might be quite difficult, as the local authorities don’t really have day-to-day experience of what live music is about and how it should operate. We do, though, have a good relationship with the police in all the cities that we deal with, and they work incredibly well with us. They know that we try and run our venues in the safest possible manner and understand how we have to work things through.

That isn’t necessarily the same when dealing with local authorities, and that is where this document seems to be pushing live music, in terms of the way it has to work.

In the 12 years that the director of Barfly has been working in the live music industry, he’s only once had someone from a local authority ask if they could work in cooperation to solve a local problem, which was to do with fly posting in Sheffield, and it was resolved successfully. The guidance will work for us providing there is genuine dialogue, if we can actually sit down with local authorities and work out how local licensing should be implemented.

The other positive element the push to use local spaces to encourage a greater take-up of live music – I think it’s a great idea, to be encouraged and applauded.

Again this will only work if the partnership works. If we were going to work converting Scout huts around the country into temporary music spaces, for example, it would require all our expertise on health and safety and promotion and marketing, which we use on a day-to-day basis.

Using those spaces is a great idea, but producing a successful event involves more work than booking the venue and the band, so local people who have experience in live music need to be involved.

(JM – Generator)
For me live music is the lifeblood of the music industry. At Generator we work in two categories, firstly development with artists, how to put themselves forward to record companies, how to develop their repertoires, and the best way to do this is by making sure that these bands can perform live. Young bands need to see that there is a place for them to play, and a way for them to progress. It also encourages promoters, and other people working in the music industry at a local level.

In a town like Newcastle, live music is thriving and you can’t book a gig in the main venues until months into the future because they are well supported.

This is important because live music is the lifeblood of the industry. If new bands didn’t have these places to play, a lot of people here would be out of a job. Where else do you find your artists? How will you know if they can pull a crowd and therefore sell records? How do you know if they look any good, or can perform and be marketable? Live music is fundamental to the music industry.

We do a lot of work with local authorities. In towns like Carlisle where there are no live music venues, we speak to people and try and find out why. Is it too expensive to get a license? Is there too much red tape?

There’s another reason why I’m working with the DCMS on the Live Music Forum. I have been working as a promoter for 17 years, promoting music at all levels. These days I don’t organise that many conventional gigs. I find a space that I want to use, and I go to the local authority and approach them. Sometimes I get nowhere, but other times, after about 6 months they are willing.

Last year we put on a dance event in Baltic Square in Gateshead shortly after it was completed, so I think local authorities can be persuaded, but it’s up to us to persuade them as to live music’s cultural importance. We must use the opportunity of the Live Music Forum to encourage Local Authorities and bring these issues up. Generator is proud to be a member of the Forum.

3. QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
How should people go about the lobbying of Local Authorities?

(DC) Going back to the guidance, I think it is good in parts, but there is also a lot of negativity within that guidance and I think it is important at this early stage to actually work with the local authorities to make sure that what they place in their policies is what you want them to place there, and that will actually encourage venues and live music.

The easiest way to do that initially is to contact the (local authority) arts officer as the first point of call if they have one. If they haven’t, the next stage is to contact their licensing officer as they will be trying to develop a consistent policy – if they are not then they should be.

If you can get your foot in the door at this stage and meet with them and look at ways in which you can cooperate to get a policy that you are both happy to work with, then you can make live music an important part of their policy rather than just an add-on.

Do you find it worrying that the police should equate live music with drugs and gun crime if they are going to be the people enforcing the new regulations?
(JS) Yes I do, but you have to put it into perspective; it was rhetoric they were using to get the bill through. I was talking to Feargal earlier about the need to get a dialogue started with the police, and I think we will find forces that will back what I said – that a music venue causes less trouble than a pub where they are showing sport.

(FS) When the new scheme comes into force, the local chief constable will be one of the people consulted, and will have direct input into any new licensing application, so their attitudes and thoughts on the issues are very important. We have already been talking to some local police forces about the impact of live music on their resources, and some are incredibly supportive and flexible.

Being black I am concerned to know that all music is treated fairly, because at the moment we see UK Garage and So Solid Crew in particular being singled out as an example of the problems of live music, but I remember when all reggae was treated in the same way.
(FS) The notes do make a generic reference to discrimination, but I doubt that government or any local authorities would want to become involved in a discrimination case.

As a venue owner have you found problems with certain types of gigs over the years?
(AD) Actually we haven’t. Our venues are very busy; they are probably operating at around 90% capacity. Most pubs don’t operate at that level, so there are a lot of people drinking in there, but drinking in an orderly fashion. We are actually a venue owner and a promoter, which at our level is relatively unusual.

For us, people are coming to see specific bands, not to drink so we tend to have a very low number of problems, occasionally on a Friday night someone will have one too many and take a swing at someone, but there’s nothing you can do about that. Over the years with all the thousands of gigs we have put on we haven’t had any serious incidents. Sometimes it can even be frustrating that people will buy a drink at the start and then stand there watching the band without going to get another!

Jim, have you had problems with the grass roots events that you do?
(JM) I’ve been running dance music events for 12 years and we have never had any real problems with drugs, and other organisations like Generator from around the country tell us the same, although I’d be naive to say it doesn’t happen at all.

I’ve never come across a promoter who has been turned down because of the type of music they want to put on.

Amongst the delegates here tonight, we have Sarah Jory, one of Britain’s leading country artists and I’d like to know how she feels this will affect her, and how clear it is?
(SJ) I’m scared to death. I’ve made my living playing live music for over 20 years, and it seems that the ability to walk into venue, be it a village hall or a pub with an acoustic guitar and play could be gone. It seems to me that that decision could now lie with the government, which worries me.

(JS) This act does say that local authorities have to support live music, they have to consult with people like us and local people to work out how they can encourage live music. It’s one of the real benefits of these guidance notes, that they say live music is an essential part of the culture of the country and it has to be encouraged, but there is a lot of regulation around it.

(FS) At least the licensing bill has bought all this to a head and it is now being discussed in public. Five years ago this conversation would never have happened, so for me something good is coming out of it already.

(Andrew Bishop, representing – Peavey, Fender, Marshall & Gibson)
We must not lose sight of the fact that recent figures show there are 20 million musicians in the UK. How do we get this information across to the majority of those musicians? Would it be good to give out information as they buy instruments? If we mobilise those forces they will help us get our message across.
(JS) The letter that we have for our members could be used. It’s quite brief; it is mainly two paragraphs that are taken from the guidance notes. We have advised people to try and get hold of their local licensing statement – you can find most of them on the British Bear and Pub Association web site www.beerandpub.com

At the moment they are really just intentions, but the real statements will go up once the guidance has been sorted. It’s amazing the number that equate music with noise, and this needs to addressed so we will be happy to work with you (instrument manufacturers/retailers) in spreading the message and getting our draft letter out.

(JM) If you do have a contact with a local authority I always point out how what I’m doing can give them added value. Big events can raise the profile of a council and bring in money to the area. I’m generally successful with that argument. When they see the benefits it can bring they are often more keen.

(DC) I’m not sure what’s in the MU letter but we should be asking local authorities what their policy would be on licensing their own premises, whether they will start licensing community halls and open spaces.

(From the floor) We seem to be finding a prejudice against music generally, so there is a danger that there might be a lot of talking but no actual change. The real job is to remind people that they are alive – how are we going to reach the general populous and tell them that sitting on your arse watching East Enders every night is maybe not the most fulfilling way to spend your life? Live music might be one way to get out there and do something better, but people really need to get out there and live.

(FS) There is a general complacency when it comes to getting people involved in anything it would seem. What the forum can do is work with the industry and local authorities to try and change perceptions that exist. The forum is pulling together various bits of information from regional development authorities and other government departments to show local authorities that apart from the cultural gain there is also a genuine economic gain to be had.

How far away are we from the continental model where people regularly go out and see music as part of their evening in all manner of places, like the way piazzas are used very successfully in Italy by artists who might struggle to fill the back room of a pub here?
(JM) I think some of the difficulties don’t lie in licensing; they are to do with public liability insurance issues and the amount of red tape because of the health and safety regulations. We do an event once a year in Newcastle called Evolution where we not only have outdoors events, but also contact all the local promoters and get them to put on special gigs during the festival.

We go back 6 months later and ask what benefits it brought. Promoters say they have seen their audiences increase as a result.

I think live music is on the up – we must remember that.

(Local Authority delegate) We strongly support the idea of trying to make it easier for people to use public spaces. There is a real complication in the guidance, in that it encourages local authorities to get a premises license for public spaces, but it also requires that the local authority comply with all of the same requirements and is treated the same way as any other applicant. I would think it very difficult for a licensing committee to grant a license where the applicant cannot say what the activity is going to be.

If we are trying to facilitate a situation where community groups can come in and conduct different types of activities in those public spaces we won’t know what the operating hours are going to be or what kind of an event it will be or how they will manage security, which puts us in a difficult situation.

There are also public safety concerns. We’ve had a look at a lot of the community halls, and a lot of them don’t comply with current safety requirements for a premises license. We will therefore be encouraging community groups to fully exploit the temporary event provisions, which will make things very easy if you have less than 500 people. If you need a premises license for more than 500 people the fact that it will be temporary will probably mean that you are treated more liberally.

I would suggest you write to DCMS and ask them to put something in the regulations to make it easier for Local authorities to get a premises license for public spaces. We have to comply with the act, and not the guidance if they conflict.

Although if there are no objections about a license application, the Local Authority has to grant that application, so you should try and sort out any problems before the application gets to the committee, to take advantage of it.

I fully agree with John regarding the civilizing nature of music. All you have to do is walk into a pub with no live music and then one with live music and note the difference, but we don’t have hard evidence for this, so if there is any we would love to see it.

(FS) The Mori research that the Forum commissioned should provide an initial report shortly, to be followed by a final report at the end of July when we will be making the findings public.

Secondly there is a large drinks company that has a reputation for its involvement in live music in public spaces who have just completed research into that very issue.

Camden currently supports up to 25 events across the borough, some of which would be able to get a temporary license for fewer than 500 people, but certainly not all. Will it be practical to license this many places under the new regulations?
(DC) This once again points out the potential for difficulties where the guidance and the act come into conflict.

(JS) When the regime changes there should be a 6-month window for people to change their licenses. People will want to get their liquor license sorted out, but they need to apply for entertainment at the same time, otherwise they will have to go through the whole process again, which means whatever the fees are they will have to pay them again.

We are trying to encourage people to sign up for entertainment from the word go. There is a risk that it will be a bureaucratic process to go through it a second time, so people should get the option even if they are not going to use it, although you have to state what kind of music you wish to host when you apply.

Going back to an earlier point, we don’t know how many venues benefited from the two-in-a-bar exemption. We guess it’s around 100,000, and they are the ones who are wary about this. We have to try and convince them to apply for an entertainment license.

(Local Authority) Camden currently deals with about 35 applications a year, but during the transition period it will probably be as many as 30 a week, which is a huge amount of work, so the more that you can do before hand the better. Also if you apply separately not only will you have to pay twice, it will just make the amount of work that the committee has to do unmanageable, so we need your cooperation.

(Barfly) I work with Adam at Barfly and one of the things we’ve found is that all the local authorities we work with all have different strengths and weaknesses, so what I would like to see is local authorities pooling their expertise as they come up with their policies.

(FS) Hopefully we are going to organise a conference for local authorities about this with the backing of DCMS, and a phased introduction would be one of the things we would recommend. From my experience at the Radio Authority one of the things I have learnt to do is go to government and tell them that you’ve been away as an industry and come up with suggestions, which they would be foolish to ignore as you have the experience.

I would be astonished if DCMS turned round and told you a phased introduction was a bad idea if you’d been away and discussed it with the local councils and reached a consensus.

Surely the general public are very important in this, as they will be able to influence their local authorities. How can we get them involved?
(JS) We have informed our 35,000 members and encouraged them to spread the information by word of mouth, because it’s not just them, but also their friends and fans of their music who we can reach in that way. I think that’s much more effective than giving out loads of leaflets.

(KH) There’s an important question about what constitutes live music. Sometimes the public are told they are going to see live music, and in the end it’s not, how does this fit in?

(JS) Early on somebody asked for a definition of live music, and we have come up with a definition of live performance, that definition being:

Music performed in public by at least one performer in real time.

We can’t get away from the use of technology. We can’t say that you can’t use backing tracks or midi files or the latest synth, but there has to be a performer involved actually performing. We come across it with all types of music, even ballet companies using a backing track and then advertising as a live performance, Britney Spears’ gigs where kids pay a lot of money to see what is basically a sophisticated dance routine. There is now a ground swell of wanting live performance, and we need to build on it.

How do we decide if DJs are live performers?
(KH) If you go to a performance by a DJ you know what you are getting, you know it’s a DJ. The problem is when you go to see someone who you would expect to be performing live.

(JS) We’ve had this debate about criteria for membership, and we do take club DJs into the MU. We think they are performers, but it does need more than just putting records on.

We don’t want to see the public getting duped, which is happening more and more. We had a big row with a certain record company about the first Spice Girls tour, and the record companies don’t like it when you draw attention to it.

The press doesn’t always pick up on this point. They were recently interested about Britney Spears, but that interest us not typical.

(Nigel McCune, MU) We find ourselves in a difficult situation where who we might see as an enemy, in the case the record industry, are also often an ally. We work very hard together on a number of issues such as visa issues for musicians travelling to the US. What we can’t do is go to war with people we will need to work with.

We did have the ‘Keep Music Live’ campaign which we are not getting away from. Like John said, we tend to know what live music is so we are focusing on keeping music real. If you go to see someone thinking you are going to have a live experience and don’t, then that’s where our keep music real campaign comes in.

(KH) I remember certainly in the 80s if there was band that wanted to perform live on a TV show, the record company would object saying that it wouldn’t sound as good as everybody else, which is a problem.

(FS) I remember talking to Mike Pickering, who used to DJ techno at the Hacienda in the mid 80s and went on to be part of M People. One of his ambitions was that M People should be a proper live band, personally I thought he was nuts. After 15 years of being in a live band and hours in rehearsals trying to teach the drummer how to play the songs, the idea of walking up on stage and hitting go on a DAT machine was fantastic, but he went ahead and did it.

Ultimately, music tends to be performed in a way that people want, and during the 90s dance music was what people wanted and they were perfectly happy to go to a club and watch a DJ just play records. The truth is that things are now changing rapidly.

(Andrew Bishop) We had an increase in guitar sales of 25% last year, and the figures show they are increasing again this year. Last year we sold 800,000 in the UK.

(FS) There is a shift going on in youth culture at the moment, which I am very happy about, because they will all hopefully buy the Undertones first album and listen to Teenage Kicks! It will also mean that people won’t let Britney Spears get away with going on stage without singing, and not miming to some pre-recorded tape.

How do we educate the next generation about live music?
(FS) I will soon be doing an event at Abbey Road studios to mark the launch of the government’s music manifesto. It’s an important sign that music is now being treated much more seriously, both for it’s cultural and economic value.

We are clearly seeing a renaissance in live music, but I believe that one of the reasons why live music suffered was because we lost so many gifted promoters to dance clubs. What could those very successful club promoters tech us now?
(JM) I’ve run a club called Shindig for 12 years, and I think what club promoting did was create an opportunity for new people to come to the fore and go to levels that live music promoters couldn’t putting on events with over 1000 capacity. Once bands get to that level, they aren’t handled by local promoters.

When you work with that number of people, I’ve done events with 10,000 people, you learn to take on venues and local authorities, and hopefully that can be passed on.

I’ve seen some of the promotion work that Jim did for his club and it was very impressive. Why do bands think that a few badly photocopied flyers will get people along?
(AD) We own 5 music venues and if we didn’t go out and do exactly the same thing promoting night after night we couldn’t do it. We don’t just have to promote one thing like a club night; we have to promote 3 different bands every night of the week. A huge amount of work goes on to fill a venue and both the promoters and the artists are now savvier.

The artists who are now coming along are aware of online marketing and building fan bases, sending out e-mails and collecting data. That didn’t happen before.

(Pete Jenner) If you go back to my ancient days with Pink Floyd, it’s about social advances. The 800,000 people buying guitars will have friends who maybe can’t play guitar, but might be good with computers so they all help each other out.

(JM) I think what Adam has done is that he has built up a really successful brand, so if you go to see a band at one of his nights you know they will be of a certain quality because there is a team of people behind it all who know what they are doing.

(AD) Part of it is creating a virtuous circle, which is why it’s important that the licensing act makes provisions for those people buying guitars to have an outlet for their music. About 4 years ago we opened our first venue outside of London in Cardiff, and I think people there would say that we helped start the renaissance in live music there, by regularly putting on bands in front of 150 people. Lots of the people who turned up went on to form bands of their own.

Are you worried that musicians are not getting paid properly for the gigs that they do?
(JS) We tell our members that there are minimum rates that they should get even though they are very low. Pay to play is rearing its ugly head again; we thought we had beaten it in the mid 90’s, ‘though it now seems to be spreading again.

We have to get rid of it; it’s a curse on the industry. We are working hard to make sure the artists get the value they deserve for their work.

(JM) The majors are now seeing live music as a bench marking process. They want to see that bands can sell out venues for 200+ people in all the major cities, so artists understand that they have to work hard at live music.

What makes the crucial difference between success and failure for a gig? We’ve put on the same line-up in two different venues one a great success and one a total failure. Why should that be?
(Pete Jenner) Part of it will be where you put them on. It’s a lot easier to get an event noticed in the regions than it is in a big city, especially London. There are so many gigs to choose from on a given night that it becomes very hard to attract people’s attention.

(FS) When we started out we made a conscious decision not to play in Belfast, as there was too much competition. So we stuck to our local area and built up a strong following until one day, someone travelled from the other side of the country to see us in our little local venue, then I knew we were ready.

A lot of people access live music through the radio rather than going to see gigs. The Communication Act should encourage local radio to play more local music. Do you think this will work?
(FS) Ofcom has accepted in general terms that support for local artists will be one of the factors that should contribute towards the localness of a local, commercial radio station.


NOTES:

1) The Licensing Act 2003 received Royal Assent on 10th July 2003. Its reforms will come into effect in full in early 2005.

Further details can be found at the Musicians’ Union and in greater detail on the DCMS website.

The Implementation of the Licensing Act 2003 takes the following proposed timetable:

10 July 2003 The Licensing Act 2003 receives Royal Assent
7 July 2004 DCMS issues Guidance under Section 182 of the Act; Licensing Authorities begin preparing & consulting on policy statements
15 Sept 2004 DCMS begins consultation on draft regulations (except for fees)
October 2004 DCMS begins consultation on draft regulations for fees
10 November 2004 Consultation on draft regulations ends, (except for fees)
7 January 2005 Start of ‘three year period’. Licensing Authorities must have published their licensing policy statements by this date
7 February 2005 First appointed day. Licensing Authorities begin processing applications
March 2005 Consultation on draft regulations on permitted temporary activities
6 August 2005 Last date on which applicants/clubs can exercise their right to apply to convert existing licences to premise licences and club premises certificates
November 2005 Second appointed day. End of old licensing laws. New premises licenses and club premises certificates given

2) The Musician’s Union have:

  1. Launched a new campaign, Keep it Real, highlighting the value (both cultural & financial) and ethos of Live Music.
  2. Released information about the “Live Music Kit”. Available as one of a series of pdfs covering the live sector, this is one primarily targeted at venues planning to stage live music, to better enable them to apply for a license, find a suitable band, health and safety issues and so-on.The MU is encouraging members to take a Live Music Kit into local venues, even if there is no previous history of live performance having occurred there. The kit aims to explain the benefits to be gained by licensees by applying for a live music license when applying for a liquor licence, which include savings in time, beaurocracy and perhaps most importantly, cost.