BULLETIN: Live Music Act 2012 update

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The purpose of this licensing bulletin is to summarise the provisions of the Live Music Act (The Act) which will come into force on 1 October 2012.

The Act will amend the Licensing Act 2003 by partially deregulating live music provisions and removing "entertainment facilities" for music or dancing as a category of regulated entertainment.

The specific provisions for live music are as follows:

  • to remove the licensing requirement for unamplified live music between 08.00 and 23.00 in all venues
  • to remove the licensing requirement for amplified live music between 08.00 and 23.00 for audiences of no more than 200 persons on premises authorised to supply alcohol for consumption on the premises.

The Act also provides a licensing exemption for live or recorded music (amplified or unamplified) which is integral to a performance of Morris dancing or dancing of a similar type. Workplaces will also be exempt from requiring a licence for amplified live music between 08.00 and 23.00 for audiences of no more than 200 persons.

The exemption for unamplified live music between 08.00 and 23.00 is interesting in that it applies to all venues and so would include outdoor festivals and concerts. There is no numbers restriction on audiences for this particular exemption.

In relation to amplified live music, it is the size of audience rather than the capacity of the premises or the number of performers which is relevant for the exemption to apply. However, the exemption would only apply to the licensed premises and so will not include, for example, a beer garden unless it happens to fall within the licensed area on the plan.

The question arises as to what is meant by "live music" as opposed to recorded music. Recent draft guidance from the DCMS which is subject to a 'technical consultation' until 28 September 2012 advises that "live music" can include some recorded music provided the live element of the performance is a 'substantial and continual' creative contribution. So, for example, a drum machine or backing track used to accompany a vocalist or band would constitute amplified live music and therefore it appears will not be treated as recorded music for the purposes of the live music exemptions.

It is important to note that the live music exemptions will apply to existing licensed premises as well as any new licences granted once the Act is in force. Any conditions on existing premises licences which "relate to live music" (for example, closing doors or windows at a specified time during live music) will in effect be 'suspended' during the exemption period. However, caution is needed here because if the conditions also relate to other licensable activities, for example, recorded music, then they will continue to apply.

Conditions on existing licences which relate solely to "entertainment facilities" will no longer apply because these activities will no longer be licensable, although the same caution applies if the conditions arguably also relate to other activities which remain licensable.

The Act allows a licensing authority to impose restrictive conditions regarding live music following a review of a premises licence and this could have the effect of removing the live music exemptions. It would also be possible for the licensing authority to impose conditions which in some way restrict or limit the provision of 'entertainment facilities', even though these activities will no longer be licensable from 1 October 2012.

The main purpose of the Live Music Act is to encourage 'low-risk' live music in venues subject to the safeguards mentioned above. The new provisions are an improved version of the 'two in a bar' exemption that applied under the previous licensing regime. Following a long campaign by the live music industry, the Government have acknowledged that enforcement powers already available under existing legislation, for example, Abatement Notices, together with the review powers under the Licensing Act, are adequate to address any noise concerns arising from these activities.