Save small music venues, demands Sharkey

A former punk warned the Government today that it must act to prevent a decline in the number of small venues playing live music.

Feargal Sharkey, former lead singer with 1980s band the Undertones and now chief executive of British Music Rights, warned that the 2003 Licensing Act was having a damaging effect on small pubs, clubs and bars wanting to offer live music.

Mr Sharkey, giving evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said the bureaucracy and cost associated with getting a new licence to play live music was proving prohibitive for smaller venues.

He called for post-legislative scrutiny of the Act and asked that it be made easier for smaller venues to obtain licences to play live music.

Mr Sharkey said smaller venues were essential for enabling young musicians to get their first taste of playing live in public.

He explained: "What we need to achieve is a vibrant, lively music scene."

He added: "From my own personal experience it's one of the only opportunities that young singers and musicians have of first appearing in public."

Mr Sharkey explained that besides problems experienced in smaller venues the live music industry business in the UK was booming and was second only to that of the US.

He also argued that live music suffered from problems of public perception.

He said objections to live music applications were often made due to concerns about noise levels.

But investigations by the Live Music Forum had found the majority of complaints registered came from neighbours playing their music too loud and not from noise generated by live events, he said.

Stephen Spence, assistant general secretary of Equity, told the hearing that changes to the Act, such as excluding small venues from it, would benefit the live music industry.

Mr Sharkey concluded: "It's really very important for young musicians and music lovers that we struggle to get this right, because we must get this right."