The passing of the Live Music Act last year was welcomed by many in the music industry, with high hopes that the removal of bureaucracy introduced by the 2003 Licensing Act for those staging grassroots gigs would encourage the owners of pubs and small venues to start staging music events again, increasing the number of platforms available for new talent to perform live.
But the move – while backed by most of the music industry’s trade groups – was not without its critics, most notably Andy Inglis, who formerly co-owned North London venue Luminaire, and who continues to work as a manager and occasional promoter, as well as lecturing on the live music industry. He aired his concerns – chiefly that an increase in pubs staging free music events to increase footfall could negatively impact on those grass roots venues for whom music is their core business – in a blog post last year. And in a new interview with CMU he says those concerns remain, despite admitting that in some towns the new Act may have have a positive impact.
Speaking last week after the first edition of the latest Get Plugged In programme, the live-focused training course staged by MusicTank and led by Inglis, he said: “Perhaps if the music industry had the first idea of what it takes to keep small venues open they wouldn’t have been so quick to create the conditions that allow the emergence of up to 13,000 venues that can now stage live music for the first time. I’ve asked both UK Music and the Musicians Union – both vocal supporters of the Act – where the people needed to populate these potential new venues were going to come from, and where these people would find the money to financially support these potential new venues. Describing their response as ‘wooly’ would be to disrespect sheep”.
He continues: “If many of the existing small live venues in England and Wales [where the Act applies] are having a tough time – and I know a lot of them are, because I’ve talked to them – how will this huge dilution of the audience help them? And if we’re about to make it easier for pub landlords to increase their takings by putting some bands on, do we really believe they will go to the expense of providing suitable technical and hospitality facilities for the artists? And what do we think this will do for the reputation of the UK’s grassroots venues abroad? You know we’re [already] a laughing stock, right?”
Although conceding that some pub landlords may invest in creating decent performance spaces, and that in towns that currently lack any small gig venues that would be a good thing, he adds: “When you’ve got one of the main architects of the Act telling me, at a reception at City Hall last year, that because my argument is ‘commercial’ – ie the idea that it might damage existing businesses – it is also ‘irrelevant’, then you can see why I have doubts that anyone [involved in lobbying for the new law] has the first fucking idea about what the grassroots live industry actually needs to enable it to prosper”.
Read the full interview with Inglis on theCMUwebsite.com later this week. The second session of the latest Get Plugged In course takes place in London tomorrow, info via this link. Individual session tickets are available.