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Licensed Music Censors

Licensing sets up authorities as music censors


Music Censorship...

Camden council gets high court approval for restrictions on busking

Link Here16th March 2014
Full story: Licensed Music Censors...Licensing sets up authorities as music censors
New licensing restrictions on buskers in Camden have been declared lawful by the high court.

Busking without a licence is to become a criminal offence in Camden, punishable with fines of up to £ 1,000. As well as implementing a fine, officials can confiscate instruments.

It is proposed that licences can be obtained on standard conditions for a 12-month period at a fee of £ 19. They can only be used by solo or dual performers. The conditions restrict hours of performing from 10am-9pm, and also restrict the use of certain types of instruments, such as drums, wind instruments and the use of sound amplification.

The restrictions were due to be imposed for the first time last month, but the council agreed to await the outcome of the legal challenge before going ahead.

Comedians Mark Thomas and Bill Bailey and musician Billy Bragg are among celebrities who took to the streets to protest over the restrictions being introduced by the council in the north London borough after noise complaints by local residents. Bragg, who spent his early career busking around London, said licensing would hurt a fundamental aspect of UK culture.

But Mrs Justice Patterson, sitting in London, ruled that Camden council had adopted a policy that was both necessary and a proportionate response to the issue of busking .

The ruling was a defeat for the Keeping Streets Live Campaign, which was ordered to pay £ 7,500 in legal costs.

David Wolfe QC, appearing for the campaign group, asked for permission to appeal, arguing that the ruling raised important legal issues and would have an impact on street entertainment across London. The judge refused permission, which means the campaigners will now have to consider asking the court of appeal itself to hear their case.



Update: The Government is Listening...

A rare roll back of state censorship. The government proposes to reduce the need for council licences for music events

Link Here 26th October 2013
Full story: Licensed Music Censors...Licensing sets up authorities as music censors
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport is consulting on proposals to further reduce the need for licences for small scale music events.

The proposals are basically to take away the need for a local council licence for events with less than 500 attendees. Previously licences were required for events with between 200-500 attendees.

The main proposals for the entertainment industry are:

Live music

A performance of live amplified music in alcohol licensed premises or in a workplace will not be regulated where the entertainment takes place between 08.00-23.00 and the audience consists of up to 500 persons. (The current audience limit is 200 persons).

Recorded music

Any playing of recorded music in alcohol licensed premises will not be regulated where the entertainment takes place between 08.00-23.00 and the audience consists of up to 500 persons.

Live and recorded music exemptions

The following events will not be regulated for live and recorded music between 08.00-23.00, where the audience consists of up to 500 people:



Update: Pub Music Delicensed...

A very rare instance of censorship law being reduced in Britain

Link Here2nd October 2012
Full story: Licensed Music Censors...Licensing sets up authorities as music censors

Venues in England and Wales with a capacity of under 200 people no longer need a licence for live music, as long as it is not late at night. The change in law is part of a government move to free businesses from a little of the mass of red tape. Live unamplified music can also now be played in any location, regardless of the audience size, under the act.

However, the government has made it clear there would be no changes on the rules controlling gatherings of more than 5,000 people, boxing and wrestling, and events such as lap-dancing clubs classed as sexual entertainment.

Musicians and business owners have welcomed the change, which will allow live music to be played between the hours of 08:00 and 23:00. Jazz musician Buster Birch described the change as a huge thing , adding that live music is very important for our society and our culture .

UK Music, which represents the music industry, estimates that the Live Music Act could enable 13,000 more venues to start holding live music events.

Business Minister Michael Fallon said:

From today businesses are freed from the red tape that holds them back.

He described the previous rules that affected pub gigs and small live performances as over-the-top bureaucracy that stifles community groups and pubs.

We've set ourselves the challenging target of scrapping or reducing a total of 3,000 regulations. I'm determined to slim down regulation and make Britain an easier place to start and run a business.

The change was introduced through a private member's bill, introduced by Liberal Democrat Don Foster. The success is a relatively rare example of a House of Lords private member's bill making it into law.


27th January

Update: Rare Let Up...

Britain set to relax live music restrictions

A private member's bill, introduced by Liberal Democrat Don Foster, will lift some of the state control and restrictions imposed on gigs by the 2003 Licensing Act.

The changes will mean that a licence will no longer be required for unamplified live music taking place between 08:00 and 23:00, and for amplified live music taking place between the same times before audiences of no more than 200.

The bill passed unopposed and will have to go back to the House Of Lords on the 10th of February before becoming law.

The MP from Bath was steering the bill through the House Of Commons on behalf of his Lib Dem colleague, Lord Clement Jones. The success is a relatively rare example of a House of Lords private member's bill making it into law.

Foster explained:

It was said the Licensing Act 2003 was going to lead to an explosion of live music but, in the event, in small venues it was drastically cut.

We saw village halls, school halls, pubs and clubs reducing the the amount of live music, not increasing it.

Hopefully the bill, when it comes into law, will reverse that.

Separate to the private member's bill, the government is conducting its own review of the Licensing Act.


16th January

 Offsite: Risk of Censorship...

The Met police are stigmatising hip-hop with the 696 form

See article from


10th September

Update: Music to our Ears...

Government earns brownie points for proposing to remove live music licence censorship

Pubs, clubs and other small venues offering live music would no longer have to apply for an entertainment licence, under government proposals.

The plans, submitted for public consultation, would apply to premises in England and Wales with a capacity of under 5,000. Ministers say the changes could also apply to school and charity events.

Licences would still be required for boxing, wrestling and sexual entertainment, and the rules on alcohol supply and sales would not be affected.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said the Licensing Act 2003 removed the so-called two-in-a-bar rule, which had allowed two musicians to perform in a pub without needing an entertainment permit, and this was one example of how it ended up potentially criminalising a harmless cultural pastime .

Tourism Minister John Penrose said changes could provide an important source of new income to struggling businesses such as pubs, restaurants and hotels . He said extra costs and red tape had also been imposed on school plays and discos where ticket sales went to Parent Teacher Association funds, Punch and Judy shows, street artists, park brass bands and restaurant pianists.

Penrose added:

Before we press ahead, it's important we get the views of those working in the industry, and to make sure that the principles of public safety, prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm are safeguarded.

Our starting point is a simple one: If there's no good reason for any of the rules and restrictions in this important area, our presumption should be to scrap them.


8th September

Update: Bands Unbanned...

Government proposes to remove live music licence censorship

Pubs and clubs wanting to offer live music would no longer be forced to apply to the local council for an entertainment licence under a planned deregulation aimed at supporting grassroots music.

The proposal is part of a government consultation to be unveiled by John Penrose, the tourism and heritage minister, amid warnings that small venues have been abandoning live music because of the bureaucracy introduced by the 2003 Licensing Act.

Feargal Sharkey, chief executive of UK Music, which represents the UK's commercial music industry, said:

We're optimistic that this will be positive news for the industry, and especially for emerging talent. I'd wager that all of yesterday's Mercury music prize nominees started their careers playing in pubs or clubs. In the meantime, we'll have to wait for the actual detail of the consultation, and under what specific circumstances the requirement for a music licence would be removed.

Parliamentarians have been calling for several years for the restriction to be removed. Prior to the 2003 Act, a two-in-a-bar exemption existed, allowing venues of any size to put on a performance of acoustic music by one or two musicians without the need for a licence.

However, the ministerial proposals are understood to go further than that. Large venues with a capacity of more than 5,000 would continue to be subject to premises licensing as before, but small venues would save on average £ 1,600 a year and be freed of the requirement to register with the council.


27th October

Update: Licensed to Censor...

Government responds to petition for an end to the censorship of live music via licensing

A petition to the government closed a few months ago. It read:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to stop criminalising live music with the Licensing Act, and to support amendments backed by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and the music industry, which would exempt most small-scale performances in schools, hospitals, restaurants and licensed premises.

Submitted by Phil Little of Live Music Forum.

Under the Licensing Act, a performance by one musician in a bar, restaurant, school or hospital not licensed for live music could lead to a criminal prosecution of those organising the event. Even a piano may count as a licensable entertainment facility . By contrast, amplified big screen broadcast entertainment is exempt.

The government says the Act is necessary to control noise nuisance, crime, disorder and public safety, even though other laws already deal with those risks. Musicians warned the Act would harm small events. About 50% of bars and 75% of restaurants have no live music permission. Obtaining permission for the mildest live music remains costly and time-consuming.

In May, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee recommended exemptions for venues up to 200 capacity and for unamplified performance by one or two musicians. The government said no. But those exemptions would restore some fairness in the regulation of live music and encourage grassroots venues.

Update: Government Response

27th October 2010. From

The Petition closed with 16,949 signatures.

The Government responded:

Currently the Coalition Government is reviewing the situation concerning live music performance at smaller venues, and the Minister for Tourism and Heritage, John Penrose MP, is considering the result of the Consultation on Live Music which closed in March.  

The Coalition is committed to cutting Red Tape, to encourage live music and is keen to find the best way forward.  A number of options are being considered and the Minister will make an announcement in due course.


18th October

Update: A Bad Rap...

Police music censor shifts from live music to MC and DJ events

Hip-hop clubs have come under police scrutiny after a rethink of a strategy to prevent violence at music events.

There had been strong objections to the Metropolitan Police's use of Form 696, used to gather details of promoters and performers.

It has now been changed so as not to be primarily aimed at live music. It will in future focus on large promoted events between 10pm and 4am which feature MCs and DJs performing to recorded backing tracks .

Police claim it is necessary to track artists and promoters who have attracted problems, allowing officers to prevent violence by putting extra security in place or banning shows.

Police say evidence shows trouble is most likely at music events when DJs or MCs perform to a live backing track at late-night clubs.

Detailed research identified which events are most likely to attract crime and disorder, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police told BBC News. At the end of the day, you've got to say that certain events attract more trouble than others. We're shifting the focus away from live music. Originally the definition of what Form 696 applied to was extremely broad so by narrowing it down, it's thought that we can better tailor it to our requirements.

Club promoter Rod Gilmore said the new criteria would target urban music. Reading between the lines, the indie kids are all right but we've got to look out for those black boys with microphones in their hands, he said. Saying it's over recorded music with DJs and MCs really narrows it down.


8th September

Update: Questions Remain...

Police music censor scraps music genre question on form 696

Scotland Yard said today that it was altering a potentially racist form which asks clubs whether they play music popular with the black and Asian communities, after pressure from politicians, musicians and equality campaigners.

Form 696 asks owners to provide the name, address and telephone numbers of artists and promoters, as well as the style of music to be played at forthcoming events.

In particular, the form gives bashment, R&B, garage as options genres popular with black and Asian people.

Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Martin, the head of the Yard's clubs and vice unit, announced that venues would no longer be asked for details of the music style. A requirement to provide the telephone number of the performing artist will also be dropped and an independent scrutiny panel will be set up to ensure that the form is not misused, Martin said.

Feargal Sharkey, campaigner and former lead singer of the Undertones, described the move as an exercise in semantics and demanded that the form be scrapped altogether. He said it was clear that the altered version continued to target musicians from ethnic minorities and he objected strongly to a question which asks about the make-up of the patrons.

What is the club owner going to say: 'White, middle class Londoners'. I don't think so, Sharkey said: These changes raise more questions than they answer. You have to ask how many violent crimes are linked to live music anyway. Why should the Met get the details of performers 14 days before an event. These changes will do nothing to alleviate the concerns of disenchanted young artists.


1st September

Update: Human Rights Bashment...

Musicians write to Equality Commission over for 69

Musicians, politicians and figures from the entertainment industry have now called on the government's equalities watchdog to intervene in the controversy over the Metropolitan police's Form 696, which they claim is potentially racist. Opponents fear that the Met scheme will be adopted by forces nationwide.

Form 696 asks venues to provide the name, address and contact telephone numbers for artists and promoters. When the layer of red tape was introduced, it also asked for details of which ethnic group was likely to attend the proposed event.

That requirement was dropped last year after widespread criticism, but the form still asks promoters to say what style of music is to be played and gives bashment, R&B, garage as examples all of which are styles of music popular with black and Asian fans.

To me it is quite remarkable that anyone could have thought this level of intrusion was a good idea, said Feargal Sharkey, the former lead singer of the Undertones and now chief executive of UK Music, who is one of the signatories of a letter to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), asking it to intervene.

The organiser of the appeal to the EHRC, journalist Sunny Hundal, said that although the form was voluntar ", many events had applications for licences turned down after refusing to fill it in.

There is a deep sense of unease among many within the music scene that it is being used to target events by black or Asian organisers. With live events being an integral part of the music scene, this only makes life harder for everyone and denies the people of London a diverse range of entertainment.

The letter, which has more than 50 signatories, states: We are deeply concerned that Form 696 has the potential to be misused by the police to discriminate against ethnic minorities There is now a danger that police across the country will adopt this measure and further entrench this illiberal and potentially racist practice.


19th July

Update: Playing a Fascist Tune...

UK government insist on vetting the bands at your local pub

Live music is fast disappearing from pubs, clubs, wine bars, restaurants and other small venues, musicians claim, because of a law passed in 2003.

Hopes were raised recently when the Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport ended a lengthy investigation into the 2003 Licensing Act by recommending that venues with a capacity of fewer than 200 people should be exempt.

But this week, the Culture Secretary, Ben Bradshaw surely, gave the Government's reply: it does not matter how small a venue is, it can still attract trouble. Bradshaw has agreed to revisit the issue, but not for at least a year, by which time there could be a different government.

If there is a folk singer or rapper in the pub, there has to be a special licence called a Temporary Event Notice (TEN). According to the Musicians' Union, small venues have stopped putting on live music because managements do not want the hassle of filling out lengthy and intrusive forms.

In London, which has perhaps the most vibrant live music scene of all, there is the additional hazard of form 696, compiled by Scotland Yard, which some people suspect is a deliberate device for suppressing the forms of music that black and Asian teenagers enjoy dubstep, hip hop, ragga, and the rest. The original version of form 696, since amended, asked after the ethnic background of all performers, and for their mobile phone numbers.

Lowkey, a British-Iraqi rapper, added: I've seen it doing the clubs. On a night when they are expecting the white audience, there will be one bouncer on the door. On the next night, when there is a black audience, there will be bouncers everywhere, metal detectors, you have to show your passport and give your address. that kind of thing. They just assume that where there is a lot of brown people, there is going to be violence.

But Bradshaw said that his department has considered exemptions for small venues, but has not been able to reach agreement on exemptions that will deliver an increase in live music whilst still retaining essential protections for local residents. There is no direct link between size of audience or number of performers and potential for noise nuisance or disorder, he claimed.

His decision provoked a furious reaction from musicians. Feargal Sharkey, chief executive of the charity UK Music, and former lead singer of the punk rock group the Undertones, said: After six years of legislation, eight consultations, two government research projects, two national review processes and a parliamentary select committee report, all of which have highlighted the harmful impact these regulations are having on the British music industry, the Government's only reaction is yet another review.

The Met says that the form is simply a tool for protecting the public, including the young people at these gigs, and that, even when there is a high risk of trouble, it is very unlikely that police will close the venue. It happened eight times last year.

But on the Downing Street website there is a petition, organised by the singer Jon McClure, to scrap the unnecessary and draconian usage of the 696 form from London music events. It has attracted 17,405 signatures. Gordon Brown has not yet responded.


19th May

Update: Police Music Censors...

Concerts cancelled after discussions with police alerted by Form 696

Police have defended their use of a controversial form that requires live music venues to hand over details of performers, promoters and fans.

The Met introduced the risk assessment form 696  identify gigs where they claim trouble might flare up, partly in response to black-on-black violence.

But it has been criticised for being heavy-handed and racially motivated.

The Met claimed the form had played its part in an 11% drop in serious violence in licensed premises in 2008.

Thomas Bowen, head of the Met team that deals with Form 696, said: A co-ordinated effort, and 696 assisting the process of identifying potential gang conflict, is undoubtedly contributing towards that reduction of shooting incidents in licensed premises.

Around 70 London pubs and clubs are currently required to complete the form. It asks for the names, dates of birth, addresses and phone numbers of promoters and artists, for details of the target audience and for the style of music, eg bashment, R'n'B, garage.

It recently came in for criticism from the House of Commons Culture select committee, which recommended that the form be scrapped, saying it imposed unreasonable conditions on events and goes beyond the Licensing Act.

It has also come under fire from Feargal Sharkey, former Undertones singer and now head of UK Music, an umbrella body that represents the British music industry: It needs to be abolished. It is now quite clearly beginning to have an impact in certain musical types and genres within the London area.

Last autumn, a concert to raise money for a teenage cancer charity was cancelled on police advice because the performers refused to give their personal details on the form, Sharkey said.

Earlier this month, a gig called Project Urban at the O2's Indigo venue was to have hosted some of the biggest names in UK hip-hop, including Tinchy Stryder, Wiley and DJ Ironik, but was called off.

There is no suggestion that those acts had been associated with any trouble. The promoters said police deemed it higher risk because they had not included the dates of birth of a couple of artists.

Jon McClure, singer with indie group Reverend and the Makers, has claimed the form is racist because it targets black audiences, and has started a petition against its use.

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