Music to Their Ears: Live Music Restrictions Lifted

Published: 11 October 2012

Pubs and other venues have been celebrating since the Live Music Act went live this October. Smaller venues with an audience of 200 or less no longer need a licence to stage live music. Maria Guida, Partner and head of Licensing looks at why this legislation is not only good news for licensees and pubs, but also good for musicans themselves. 

Many musicians start their careers performing live in pubs. It is estimated that the Live Music Act will see an extra 13,000 venues across the UK hosting their own live music nights. .

The Live Music Act started life as a private member’s bill, designed to remove some of the restrictions put in place on live music by the Licensing Act 2003. It came into force on 1 October 2012.

Under the new Act, venues which are already licensed for alcohol sales and where the audience will be 200 people or less no longer need a licence to stage live music events. Live unamplified music can also now be played in any location. The only restriction on the music is that it must only be played between the hours of 8.00am and 11.00pm.

Not everyone is happy about the new Act, however. The Noise Abatement Society predicts a dramatic rise in complaints over noise.

There is some comfort however for those residents who are worried about noise, since the Live Music Act does not allow licensed premises to cause a noise nuisance. Other noise legislation, such as the Environmental Protection Act 1990, will continue to apply.

The Live Music Act has a number of mechanisms built in for the protection of residents, such as:

  • If there is a review of the premises licence the Licensing Authority can apply conditions to it relating to live music, to apply even between the hours of 8.00am and 11.00pm;
  • If the premises licence does not authorise live music the Licensing Authority can add conditions as though the live music were regulated entertainment authorised by that licence, again to apply between the hours of 8.00am and 11.00pm.
  • The Licensing Authority can decide that live music at the premises is a licensable activity and live music can no longer be provided without permission either on the Premises Licence or a Temporary Event Notice.

Of huge significance is the fact that the Act also removes the need to licence entertainment facilities completely – whatever the time or audience size. This means that dance floors, microphone stands and pianos made available for use by the public is now no longer licensable since the Act came into effect.

The Act was designed to encourage musicians and live music being played in pubs, and not designed to cover karaoke, but karaoke is another form of entertainment that will no longer require licensing, as long as the other criteria of the Live Music Act are met.

Any licensee should act cautiously however, as the Live Music Act effectively allows "one strike and you’re out." Any resident or a responsible authority (most likely to be Environmental Health’s noise control) can apply for a review of the premises licence if they are concerned about the level of noise. 

At the review hearing if the licensing authority decide that live music is being played in such a way, or at such a level that offends the "prevention of public nuisance" licensing objective, it can remove the exemption. This will mean that the venue will need to apply for a variation of its premises licence or a temporary events notice to hold live music events, and of course, if there have been noise complaints, this is not likely to be successful. 

For more information on the Live Music Act or if you are facing a review of your premises licence please contact Maria Guida, Head of Licensing or to read more about our Licensing services click here.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.