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Musicians in Silent Protest Against Licensing Bill
By Jon Newton,
(more articles from this author)
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UK musicians gathered in Parliament Square, London, on January 27, in a silent protest against the British government's proposed new Licensing Bill.

Musicians' Union general secretary John Smith says if enacted without amendment, the Bill would mean all public, and much private, musical performance would become criminal offences with a maximum penalty would be a £20,000 fine and six months in prison unless licensed.

In the meanwhile, "If all the provisions of the Licensing Bill are would represent the biggest increase in licensing control of live music for over one hundred years," says the union.

* 110,000 on-licensed premises in England and Wales (pubs, bars, restaurants etc) would lose the right to allow one or two musicians to perform.

* The provision of one unamplified guitarist, paid or unpaid, once a month in a restaurant would become a criminal offence unless licensed.

* 15,000 churches outside London would lose their licensing exemption for public concerts ∑5,000 registered members' clubs lose their licensing exemption for live music

* Thousands of private events, hitherto exempt, become licensable if they are "for consideration and with a view to profit". The same applies to any private performance raising money for charity.

* Even wedding receptions, corporate functions, parties etc are affected. Payment to bandleaders or DJs will trigger the licence requirement.

* A new licensing criterion is introduced: the provision of 'entertainment facilities'. This clearly includes the provision of musical instruments and any amplification where applicable. This would mean rehearsal studios, broadcasting studios etc will be illegal unless licensed.

* Musicians could be guilty of a criminal offence if they don't check first that premises hold the appropriate authorisation for their performance.

* Buskers become potential criminals - unless they perform under a licensing authorisation ∑Church bell ringing could be licensable

* Carol singing, on front door steps or in the street, would be a criminal offence unless licensed. ∑The maximum penalty for unlicensed performance is a £20,000 fine and 6 months in prison

However, "Widescreen entertainment, or jukebox music, is exempt," the union points out, adding, "entertainment on satellite or terrestrial TV is exempt from licensing under this Bill. There is no requirement to declare these forms of entertainment on licence applications, nor to disclose the power of amplification used.

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