The Live Music Act was a step in the right direction with regard to doing away with some of the conditions imposed on presenting live music.
However, as The Rolling Stones found out on their 50th celebration gig at the O2 Arena in London, the Live Music Act doesn’t mean you can always get what you want.
The milestone gig on 25th November was cut short at 11pm sharp without a three number encore, due to strict curfew conditions imposed by the local authority. An interruption which undoubtedly caused a lot of disappointment to many fans.
The Live Music Act came into force on October 1st 2012 and it means that you can now have live music in many more situations without the need for a license from the local Council.
(See, The Live Music Forum website for more information on how the Live Music Act came about and what it means to you as a musician or live music fan: http://www.livemusicforum.co.uk/lmfhandyguide.html)
The Rolling Stones 11pm curfew is a reminder that our entertainment is still controlled by our local authorities. In certain areas the Live Music Act was a bit vague and much of the detail is contained in the Guidance Notes on how to interpret the Act, which were issued to local authorities by the DCMS (Dept. of Culture Media and Sport). These have been some time in the making but still contain anomalies.
For instance, with regard to the definition of what actually constitutes live music. Especially in the area of performances using backing tracks. Over the last couple of years DJ’s who ‘mix’ music have started to be accepted by the Musicians Union as members and some of these kind of performances have been classified as ‘live music’, as opposed to ‘recorded music’.
The issue is likely to be whether, a performance by a DJ who is playing some synth notes on a keyboard in conjunction with a variety of loops in Ableton Live, classifies as live music when compared to a DJ scratching or simply spinning two disks simultaneously. The Guidance Notes have so far failed to tackle this one, despite the fact that in areas of licensing there is usually a clear distinction between ‘recorded’ music and ‘live’ music.
Historically the law has favoured recorded music over live music. This started in the 1960’s with the relaxation of restrictions on “needle time”.
Needle Time meant that only several hours of recorded music per day was allowed to be broadcast on a BBC radio station. All other music had to be live bands or recordings of live performances.
Gradually the amount of permitted “needle time” was increased to what you have now, where live music forms a very minor part of a station’s content.
Favouritism toward recorded music can also be seen in the comparative leniency in licensing of juke boxes and MTV. Right through to the Music Industry’s current obsession with new platforms and delivery methods to sell the maximum quantity of recorded music. Which is mostly owned by a dwindling number of major record companies selling recordings by a small pool of high-earning published artists.
Delivery of recorded music through jukeboxes, TV/Radio and DJ events still faces nothing like the controls on live music even after the Live Music Act.
The Live Music Forum’s Facebook page recently highlighted a case where ‘The Wig and Gown’ in Holloway had lost its live music permission, following a noise complaint about a DJ’s recorded music (which turned out to include 70′s classics by Marvin Gaye and K C and the Sunshine band).
Somebody complains about a loud DJ night and the pub loses live music permission. How can that be right ?
Most of the noise complaints that we see originate from highly amplified recorded music rather than loud bands.
Noise complaints are an area where local authorities retain quite a lot of control and any bias they might have in favour of residents sometimes works to the disadvantage of established live music venues.
Many existing Premises Licenses of pubs, or clubs still have local authority conditions attached to them which enforce time restrictions, or the use of a noise limiter for example. Any conditions that were in place before The Live Music Act were carried forward.
Councils can have very different approaches to interpreting guidelines and applying the law. So you can have greatly differing live music environments in different towns or cities.
Hastings is a great place for live music, but several well known venues in the area have been cautioned following noise complaints.
While residents quality of live does deserve to be considered, vibrant areas such as the seafront and the town centre need to be allowed to present live music in order to attract and entertain visitors and local people.
Hastings’ Live Music scene is one of its biggest assets and it is important that this is considered by officials in positions of power and that everything is done to support the entertainment sector and promote Hastings as The Live Music Capital of the South East.