Music - Sounds of success

A change to the law will help student rockers get gigs

Catherine Paver

"I have just got my first gig, Miss!" It's an amazing moment for any musician - one they will never forget. But it's never easy. Now, however, thanks to a long and dogged campaign to bring about a change in the law, young musicians everywhere should find it less difficult in future.

This successful fight to overturn a law that meant even small venues had to have a live music licence is one young people need to know about. It could inspire them with the power of both music and democracy. It also introduces them to the workings of Parliament, such as how a bill passes into law.

The story of this campaign dates to when today's bedroom guitarists were in Year 1 and the Licensing Act 2003 was introduced in an attempt to reform entertainment and alcohol licensing. But it heralded tough times for small venues that couldn't afford to pay for a licence, many of which stopped hosting live music altogether. It was regulatory overkill.

Ever since, the Musicians' Union has been lobbying for special treatment for these smaller venues. It was joined in the fight by Liberal Democrat peer Tim Clement-Jones, who introduced a private member's bill in the House of Lords requesting that venues with a capacity of fewer than 200 people be allowed to host live music without a licence, and by Bath MP Don Foster, who took up the fight in the House of Commons.

The campaign was full of fun. To show his support, Feargal Sharkey sang his hit song Teenage Kicks in the House of Commons in 2009. It was also nail-biting. One Friday afternoon in January this year, the Live Music Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons with only a minute to spare.

It is rare for a private member's bill to become law, but on 8 March this one did. Chief executive of UK Music Jo Dipple calls this "a monumental achievement".

"The global success of our industry is dependent on a flourishing network of small venues, where tomorrow's headliners can learn their craft and develop their career," she says. So make sure you tell the kids.

Catherine Paver is a teacher and singersongwriter. Listen to her songs on iTunes or at


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Catherine Paver

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