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Albums released in 2008The current precarious state of many of the country's best-loved small venues was further highlighted last week. UK Music chief executive Feargal Sharkey and Musicians’ Union general secretary John Smith told the Culture select committee that the Licensing Act was failing live music.

Both appeared as witnesses to the ongoing inquiry into the impact of the Licensing Act and told chairman John Whittingdale that small venues are finding it more and more difficult to host live music since the abolition of the “two-in-a-bar” exemption that allowed performances by two musicians without a licence. And they suggested that it might be preferable to split out music from legislation primarily designed for the sale of alcohol.

Feargal Sharkey, ex-Undertones lead singer, warned the 2003 Licensing Act was hurting small venues and new performers. Sharkey said local councils and police went “over the top” in enforcing the Act. Venue owners are forced to fill in a three-page application and pay huge fees to get a licence for a gig. Amazingly, they must give police the names, birthdates, addresses and phone numbers of every performer (just imagine trying to get a current address from Pete Doherty for example). Police chiefs say it is “in the interest of public order and the prevention of terrorism”.

Smaller venue owners claim the time and costs are too much and new performers find it harder to get work. Feargal, 50, now boss of the organisation UK Music, said: “The demands are outrageous. They are squeezing the life out of small venues and performers.” He demanded fresh scrutiny of the new laws to make it easier for small pubs to get music licences. He told the Commons culture committee: “We need a vibrant, lively music scene. “From my personal experience it’s one of the only opportunities that young singers and musicians have of first appearing in public.” Hear Hear, after the closure of the Hammersmith Palais and the Astoria we need to protect the live music scene.