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Under current law the performance of live music is regarded as “regulated entertainment” and must therefore be authorised by a premises licence, a club premises certificate or a “temporary event notice”. There are certain exemptions under the Licensing Act 2003, for example music for the purposes of or purposes incidental to religious services or meetings or at places of public religious worship, and the performance of live music or the playing of recorded music if it is incidental to some other activity which is not itself regulated entertainment. Until 2005 there was an exemption known as the “two-in-a-bar” rule. This was a disapplication under the previous licensing law of the need for a public entertainment licence in certain situations, such as two performers singing or playing music, at premises where a justices' licence was in force.

In May 2009 the Culture Select Committee recommended that the Government should exempt venues with a capacity of 200 persons or fewer from the need to obtain a licence for the performance of live music. The Committee also recommended the reintroduction of a "two-in-a-bar" exemption for non-amplified music. In its response, the former Government rejected these recommendations. However, in October 2009, the former Government indicated that it was now minded to consider an exemption for live music in small venues with a capacity of less than 100 and would launch a public consultation on the issue.

This note describes the old “two-in-a-bar” exemption, summarises the proceedings in Parliament which led to its removal and refers to the introduction into the House of Lords of Private Members’ Bills designed to restore this particular exemption and create others. It also considers evidence for the impact of new licensing laws on the provision of live music and suggestions for a “de minimis” exemption. The note describes the recent simplification of the process for making “minor” variations to a premises licence and concludes with a summary of developments since the 2010 General election. In March 2011 the Government indicated its willingness to give qualified support to Lord Clement-Jones’s Live Music Bill [HL] 2010-12.


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