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The Musicians’ Union’s Live Music Kit: A guide to hosting and promoting live music in accordance with the Live Music Act 2012


In the first Live Music Exchange blog post of 2013, the Musicians’ Union sets out the background to the Live Music Act 2012, and introduces the MU’s Live Music Kit, available for free download here. The Kit contains advice for venue owners and publicans on how to run successful live music gigs in accordance with new and existing legislation, and demonstrates the benefits of live music within pubs and venues, in terms of increased clientèle, sales and revenue.

The Live Music Act 2012

On October 1st 2012 the Live Music Act came into effect. This was a genuine cause for celebration, as the creative industries and those who work within them are generally more acclimatised to bad news: savage funding cuts, venue closures, decreasing consumer spend and fees for musicians … the list goes on.

In brief, the Live Music Act allows venues and premises to host live amplified music to audiences of up to 200 people (there is no maximum capacity for unamplified performances) without first obtaining an entertainment licence via their Local Authority.  This cutting of red tape signifies real progress for the live music industry, and in particular for the grassroots scene – and the stages of its small venues and pubs – which is vital to both artists starting out within the industry and established professional gigging and touring musicians.

In order to host live music in accordance with the Live Music Act, premises (pubs, bars, restaurants, etc.) can create bespoke entertainment programmes that suit their venue, clientèle, budget and existing activities.  For many of these venues, the introduction of live music may involve an acoustic duo entertaining a crowd of casual drinkers in a bar, or a pianist playing a repertoire of classics in a restaurant. Alternatively, pubs may wish to put on covers bands on a Saturday night to pull a few more locals in and keep people drinking for longer. The options in terms of genre and style are endless, and the UK boasts an impressive roster of working musicians.

The MU and live music

Most musicians are aware of the MU’s ‘Keep Music Live’ campaign, dating back to 1965, as the familiar stickers are still displayed on thousands of flight cases, old and new. It’s a sentiment that few could disagree with. Sometimes the fight for live music involves lobbying for a live band to accompany a theatrical or dance show when producers propose to use recorded music. Similarly, in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics, the MU fought hard against the decision to feature mimed performances by high-profile acts as part of the opening and closing ceremonies. And sometimes the battle for live music involves raising public awareness of the growing expectation for musicians to perform for free, the result being that a profession within the music industry becomes less and less viable. In fact, so high has been the demand for musicians to work for free that the MU has recently launched a campaign – Work Not Play – that highlights the issues surrounding the unpaid work expected of artists, and also names-and-shames the employers that are attempting to employ musicians on this unfair basis, including the likes of Café Rouge.

The universal statement of wanting to preserve and nurture live music thus remains central to the MU’s campaigning to ‘Keep Music Live’.

Of the 30,000+ members that the MU represents, many perform live – be that as part of an orchestra, theatre band, high-profile touring outfit, covers/tribute act, or as emerging singer-songwriters or bands trying to build profiles and launch careers via gigs and tours.  Over recent years it has become increasingly hard for musicians to find sufficient paid work within small venues, due partly to the level of venue closures and funding cuts across the creative industries. Whilst the MU has severely fought the cuts, supported struggling venues and appropriately equipped musicians in relation to finding employment, the availability and quality of live work has remained an ongoing concern.

The introduction of the Live Music Act has therefore been welcomed with open arms by The MU, as it has presented a much-needed opportunity for venues to host live music on their premises without restrictive red tape, and in turn will increase the level of employment for performing musicians.

The MU’s Live Music Kit

In order to encourage venue owners and publicans to take advantage of the Live Music Act, the MU has produced the ‘Live Music Kit: A Guide to Hosting and Promoting Live Music’. The Kit explains the changes in legislation, the terms of the Live Music Act and how venues can host music in accordance with the Act. In addition, the Kit features positive findings taken from the research conducted by PRS for Music, ‘The Value of Music in Pubs’, which demonstrate the benefits of live music within pubs and venues, in terms of increased clientèle, sales and revenue:

  • “Live music is the best way to increase sales”;
  • “Pubs without featured music are three times more likely to close than pubs with featured music”.

The Kit also contains practical advice in relation to health & safety issues, contracts and fees, and creative advice, including information on how to find and book the right kind of musicians, and subsequently how to promote shows in order to ensure good attendance and enjoyable shows.

Furthermore, the Kit explains the basis on which live music can be introduced within a pub, bar or eatery in a way that will add to the overall appeal of the premises, without disrupting other activities or upsetting regular punters.

Finally, venue owners are invited to contact their Regional MU Office for advice relating to the Live Music Kit and how they might host live music within their premises.

In order to ensure that the Live Music Act contributes to the growth of live music, it’s essential that those that could benefit from it – the venue owners and musicians – are aware of the Act and that they understand what it means for them. The MU is encouraging musicians to approach local pubs, bars and restaurants and other potential premises, in order to suggest how they may be able to work together.

The Live Music Kit is available for download from the MU website here.

For a printed copy of the Kit or for further information, contact Isabelle Gutierrez here.


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