The Live Music Act 2012

From October Live Music will no longer require a licence if it is for an audience of under 200 people when amplified or for an audience of any size when unamplified. Those are the headline; here are the details…

The purpose of the Live Music Act 2012 was to deregulate live music for smaller venues and thus encourage more variety and enable more premises to provide opportunities to up-and-coming artists.

The 2012 Live Music Act does not deregulate live music from the Licensing Act 2003, live music will still be a licensable activity under ‘Regulated Entertainment’. However under certain circumstances, exemptions for live music will apply.

The Live Music Act 2012 received Royal Assent in March 2012 and comes into force on 1st October 2012.

Therefore Live Music will be exempt under the Licensing Act 2003 providing you meet the following criteria:

  1. The live music takes place between 08.00 and 23.00
  2. It is for an audience of less than 200 people if the live music is amplified or
  3. If it is acoustic unamplified live music for an audience of any size
  4. The premises is already licensed to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises or
  5. The premises is classed as a workplace that is not licensed; or a workplace licensed only for late night refreshment.
  6. Providing alcohol is being served at the premises at the time the live music is taking place.

Licensing Conditions

Any conditions attached to the premises licence which apply solely to live music or entertainment facilities will no longer apply.

Licensing conditions will apply to permitted live music which takes place between 23.00 and 08.00 or to an audience larger than 200 (in the case of amplified music).

Review of a Premises Licence

If a review of the premises licence takes place, the licensing committee will be able to impose new or reinstate old / existing conditions on the premises licence. These conditions will relate specifically to Live Music going forward.

A review of a premises licence can lead to the licensing committee deciding on a case by case basis that live music should once again be treated as a licensable activity at any individual premises, following a review of that premises licence.

A review of the premises licence could also remove the ability to have live music of any kind at an individual premises, effectively making all live music a licensable activity at the individual premises licence which came under review.

Entertainment Facilities

The Live Music Act 2012 deregulates the licensable activity of providing ‘Facilities for Entertainment’. Therefore the ‘facility for making music’ and the ‘facility for dancing’ no longer apply and premises can have musical instruments and dance floors without the need to licence them.

This also means that if more than six people spontaneously break into a ‘Kids from Fame’ style dance at your premises, the premises licence holder no longer needs to fear overzealous regulation and the possibility of large fines.

Morris Dancers Rejoice

The news is also good for those who partake in dancing of a similar nature to Morris Dancing which is also now covered by the new legislation.

Effectively amplified music be it live or recorded which is integral to the performance of Morris dancing or similar dance is no longer deemed licensable and enjoys the same exemptions as unamplified music related to Morris dancing.

What is Live Music?

Just to be clear, ‘live music’ is defined as any person or persons using instruments or their voice to generate music in front of an audience, for the purpose of entertaining them.

DJ’s should be aware that unless they are only playing pre-recorded tracks without any additional interpretation (mixing etc.) they may well be providing live music rather than recorded music.

A DJ may well be using the recorded music and their equipment as a musical instrument, creating a new, varied or substantially different sound or interpretation of the original recorded track; this would be considered live music.

An Audience of 200 or Less

Interestingly the audience limit of 200 refers only to the audience watching the performance in any one location. A venue which has more than one room / area and the facility to control numbers in each area, may have more than 200 people at the premises; providing any one audience does not exceed 200.

Therefore a venue with three rooms, each of which holds no more than 200 people and is controlled in a suitable manner to ensure no more than 200 people migrate to any one room / space during the performance of live amplified music, could have three live bands playing at the same time with a total audience of 600 at the venue as a whole.

The Live Music Act 2012 is a welcome piece of legislation which allows venues to deliver live music to smaller audiences and removes some red tape for premises licence holders.

However beware not to abuse the opportunity, if your live music causes disturbance to neighbours and other businesses or if it is deemed to undermine the licensing objectives in anyway, there is plenty of scope for individuals or any of the responsible authorities to review your existing premises licence; even though the live music itself is not a licensable activity.

Premises licence holder therefore still need to ensure that they have measures in place to prevent noise escaping and disturbing residents and that they have suitable measures in place to ensure that public safety is maintained and that suitable resources are allocated to prevent crime and disorder occurring.

Exemptions now exist, but strong regulation is in place for those who abuse the opportunity.


Author - Peter Mayhew is the Managing Director of Beyond the Blue Training & Consultancy. He delivers training courses and provides expert opinion on alcohol & entertainment licensing for individuals, organisations and public bodies. Peter is a frequent contributor to industry publications.

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