Live music licensing laws have been relaxed meaning more freedom for Fylde coast bands to get their sounds heard. Reporter DAVID SHARMAN speaks to those in the business about the groundbreaking move.
BLACKPOOL was once widely regarded for its vibrant live music scene – with venues across the resort vying passionately to play host to the best acts around.
However, while those days are sadly consigned to the past it is now hoped new legislation will make it easier for smaller bars and clubs to give talented bands and artists their first break on stage.
The Live Music Act, which was brought into law earlier this week, means venues with a capacity of under 200 people will no longer need a licence in order to host live acts and, what is more, live amplified music can now be played in any location.
And for everyone, from publicans to promoters, that can only be a good thing.
Andy Daubney owns the 300 capacity Blue Room, on Church Street, in central Blackpool, which hosts live music on a weekly basis.
While his own venue will not benefit directly from the new legislation, he says it will mean more punters clamouring to see great bands across the resort.
He said: “The more of a circuit there can be for live music the better it is for all.
“Under the new rules these smaller venues can only play live music up until 11pm so hopefully people will start coming out to visit more than one venue.”
David Ali, director of The Tavern, which is also on Church Street, is in agreement with Andy, and is happy to see smaller venues being given a break, which it is hoped will lead to more business for large venues too.
He said: “I’m in favour – there’s far too much regulation at the moment.”
“When I applied for the initial licence it didn’t cost us anymore to have it but the paperwork is too much.
“There’s far too much box ticking.”
Dan Johnson, manager at the Belle Vue pub, on Whitegate Drive, Blackpool, hailed the move as a chance to boost the resort’s already thriving music scene.
He said: “Blackpool has got a pretty good music scene.
“I’m from Preston originally and there there’s no live music scene at all, but Blackpool has a lot of venues and it’s a pretty good scene as a result.”
He also believes the new laws could lead to a more competitive market for bands.
“It’s good for bands because they’re going to be getting more gigs and they might start putting their prices down because of that too.
“There’s still too much red tape for pubs and maybe they’ll bring in more restrictions somewhere else.
“But you never know they might go the other way and become more relaxed because with the sanctions, price increases and smoking bans, we need something to bring customers back.
“This can only be a good thing.”
The new Live Music Act was introduced by the Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, Don Foster through a private member’s bill.
The Act will get rid of some of the red tape which imposed on live music venues by the 2003 Licensing Act.
However, in allowing the relaxation of music licensing laws, the Government has made it clear there will be no changes on the rules controlling audiences of more than 5,000 people, events such as boxing and wrestling, and venues such as lap-dancing clubs being classed as sexual entertainment.
THE MUSIC JOURNALIST
Robin Duke, The Gazette’s Entertainment Editor, believes the new changes will allow Blackpool to return to its heyday as a town where live and vibrant music thrived.
He said: “Anything that gives live music and, indeed, other forms of live entertainment in pubs, a shot in the arm is welcome.
“There was a time when the area was bursting with pubs and clubs giving bands and other acts essential showcases.
“When The Gazette launched its once annual and highly successful rock band competition we were spoilt for choice where to stage it and every heat was in a different venue.
“By the time the competition ground to a halt a couple of years ago only a handful of venues still promoted live music – and most of them relied on cover bands.”
And, while a resurgence in innovative bands and artists have been seen returning to the resort in more recent times, Robin thinks this could be a crucial boost for entertainment in the resort.
He added: “Recently there has been a bit of an upsurge but the change in the law will hopefully light the blue touch paper and see Blackpool and the Fylde once again became a hotbed for original musical talent – not just a headquarters for unimaginative karaoke.”
PHILIP Green, who runs Silantro Cafe, in Wood Street, St Annes, says the plan to relax the law is a “great move” for venues, acts and audiences alike.
He said: “It’s going to open up lots of opportunities for up and coming musicians to play in small venues at small rates.
“In times where pubs, restaurants and cafes have been struggling in the last four years, live music has really saved us.
“When people can drink cheaply and watch football at home, they need a reason to congregate.
“When they come out and watch musicians and the wonderful acts we have here it’s a great boost for the business.
“It’s saved small businesses like ours, it really has.”
Silantro Cafe has space to accommodate an audience of 30 and presently holds a licence, which Mr Green obtained two years ago.
The restaurant hosts live music on a weekly basis with a number of different acts performing regularly throughout the year.
Mr Green believes that on the strength of the present music scene across Blackpool and the Fylde coast, the new laws will serve as a great boon to help some of the area’s most exciting and talented acts to thrive.
He said: “There’s no question there’s a real undercurrent of live music coming through.
“We see lots of it in St Annes and I think we’ll see a lot more of it now.”