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Music and entertainment deregulation

Music and entertainment deregulation

Having a band or a DJ in your pub, night club or even restaurant is a form of entertainment that superficially needs to be authorised on your premises licence.

So too are the showing of plays, movies or other recorded images, indoor sporting events, the performance of dance (for example, podium dancers or professional dancers) or boxing and wrestling.

The types of entertainment that might need to be authorised is long and complicated, but since 2015 many of these have been de-regulated by Parliament in order to ease compliance for licensed businesses and to reduce red tape.

What follows is a very brief outline.

Live amplified and recorded music (live bands and DJ’s)

Amplified music – bands, in-house sound systems and DJ’s – do not require authorisation when playing on licensed premises that are authorised and open for the sale of alcohol for audiences up to 500, between the hours of 8am and 11pm.

Live unamplified music does not need a licence anywhere and does not have an audience limit, again between the hours of 8am and 11pm.

Live bands can usually perform even in areas that are not included on your licensed layout plans, for example, in beer gardens. This is because of an additional exemption allowing for the performance of live amplified music in work places, and beer gardens and other such areas are considered to be work places.

This additional exemption does not extend to recorded music, i.e. DJ’s or in-house music relayed on speakers. The reason for the distinction between live bands and DJ’s is, we understand, due to concerns at the time about illegal parties being held in car parks and other un-licensed premises.

So until 11pm you probably don’t need live music or recorded music authorised on your licence.

What about your licence conditions?

If the above criteria are met, live music and recorded music-related conditions do not apply unless they have been re-imposed at a licence Review, following proven problems at the premises.

Lastly, karaoke is considered live music.

Entertainment facilities

Entertainment facilities (stages, karaoke machines, microphone stands, even electrical sockets) have not been licensable since October 2012. You may still see these “authorised” on your licence if it has not been amended but they are no longer relevant to licensing.

Performance of plays, indoor sporting events and performances of dance.

“Plays” might include Noddy performing at a holiday camp, but also a themed ghost story reading night with paid actors at a pub. “Performances of dance” includes any non-customer dancing that is intended to entertain a public audience. For audiences up to 500 (and in the case of indoor sporting events, up to 1,000) from 8am until 11pm none of these activities require authorisation under the Licensing Act. Lap-dancing and other forms of sexual entertainment on up to 11 occasions a year remain regulated under the 2003 Act (and on any more occasions will usually also require a Sexual Entertainment Venue licence).


You may have the occasional film night – if that is the case, then the showing of those movies is a licensable activity and needs to be authorised on your licence. However, the showing of pre-recorded films which are incidental to some other activity (for example, drinking, eating or playing pool) is no longer licensable. This will very much be dependent on the facts of each case but questions to ask yourself are:

  • Is the showing of any pre-recorded film likely to undermine one of the licensing objectives, and is the film the main, or one of the main attractions? If so, it is unlikely to be incidental/background

Boxing and wrestling

This activity remains regulated under the Licensing Act (and explicitly includes mixed martial arts), apart from Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling.

None of the exemptions above affect the need to apply for copyright licensing for music or images, nor the requirement not to cause a noise nuisance. Regulated entertainment is a complex area and there are other minor exemptions – contact one of our lawyers who will gladly help with any specific questions you have.

If you have any questions about music and entertainment regulation, contact licensing solicitor Andy Grimsey.

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