Expert advice: Live Music Act

Richard Eaton, partner and licensing specialist at Birketts LLP, on the Live Music Act

Holding live music events just got easier. Since October 1, the Live Music Act has permitted live music performances without the need for a premises licence or temporary event notice.

The Act removes from “regulated entertainment” the performance of live music in licensed premises between the hours of 8am and 11pm, when performed to no more than 200 people if it is amplified. If unamplified, the provisions are the same but without such a restriction on maximum numbers.

The Act is no doubt a welcome development in encouraging venues to offer live music without the cost of extending your licensing cover. Given the restriction on numbers, it is likely to be of most relevance to smaller bars, pubs and clubs who may still be trading on their “grandfather rights” from the old magistrates’ licence for the sale of alcohol only.

When planning events, venue owners might find it difficult to identify whether a particular activity is live music (which qualifies) or recorded music (which does not). What about DJs who perform by mixing records, karaoke, or singers with backing tapes? Revised guidance (under section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003) has been issued on the subject. This suggests that live music can be supported by recorded music such as a drum machine or backing track, provided that the “live” element is “substantial and continual”. It also suggests that DJs can move from recorded to live status if they mix records to create “new sounds”. It is arguable that karaoke falls within the scope of the exemption. The new Act will clearly not exempt a standard disco.

Before venue owners get carried away booking up live acts, it should not be forgotten that the new freedom does not override the duty under environmental law not to commit a nuisance. So you cannot allow the music to interfere with a neighbour’s health or reasonable enjoyment of their property.

Originally published in the December 2012 edition of Bar magazine.

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