Live music had a boom year in the UK last year. Fergal Sharkey head of the Live Music Forum recently reported back on a report commissioned by the Forum and it noted that 47% of pubs, clubs, student unions and restaurants featured at least one live act in the past year, and 19% of small venues staged gigs at least twice a month. In all, an estimated 1.7m gigs were staged across England and Wales.
This proves the popularity and the re-emergence of live music on the British music scene in a year that UK music had a fantastic renaissance. The Top 5 selling albums in the UK last year were all by British artists. Those artists being, James Blunt, Coldplay, Gorrillaz, Robbie Williams and the Kaiser Chiefs. In the annual Radio 2 poll of the top 10 years for music it was the first time for 20 years that the current year had made the top 10, 2005 being no.6 in the poll. This may reflect the shifting demographic of the Radio 2 listenership, however in general the music buying demographic in the UK has shifted as well with all age groups now buying music.
2005 was also the real breakthough year for downloaded music. For the first time ever 'music' surpassed 'porn' as the number 1 searched for word on the world wide web. Arctic Monkeys went to Number 1 having released their original material via the internet - at the time without a record deal. It was also the year that the singles chart merged with the downloads chart thereby putting a stop to the farcical dual chart system that was being operated.
All of this has thereby contributed to the explosion of live music, people are going out to see small bands in small venues all over the UK with a real 'joie de vive' and Sharkey's prediction for 2006 is to hit somewhere in the region of 2 million live gigs.
And New Labour's response to this UK live music boomtime. Well frankly... hysterical fear. The new Licensing Act which came in to force on November 24th 2005 will effectively kill the 1 and 2 man act in smaller venues. The new act requires small venues to apply for an entertainment licence at the cost of up to £1,000. Yet again the government have stated that the act is 'necessary to control antisocial behaviour, public safety and noise.' I'm sorry but have you ever heard such a pile of steaming horse manure in all your life. How many aspects of normal British life are now being curtailed under this ridiculous antscial behaviour moniker.
Both the Times and the Guardian have covered the story:
New act will give music lovers the blues - The Guardian - Tuesday August 2, 2005
Star to defy live music law - The Times - Friday January 13th, 2006
On the face of things this may not seem as significant as you'd think it would just effect a lot of those backgroundy type artists, but these venues have provided the lifeblood for new music in the country, as the feedback to The Times article suggests:
The government's official line is that the previous 'two in the bar' rule was non-sensical in that a 2 piece band like the White Stripes could play with no licence and have as big a PA rigged up as they liked, yet a venue wishing to host a string quartet had to have a licence. Of course, this is bollocks. A bar can host Monday night football and cram 1,000 people in to a box without having to even notify the health and safety executive, let alone apply for a licence.
This is just yet more proof that this government is intent on cracking down on all activities that enrich the diversity of British culture. With any luck they may succeed in ensuring that all teenagers only play XBox at home for the rest of their lives.