The live industry in one step closer to having the agent of change principle introduced into UK law after the bill has been read out in parliament for the first time. 

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Agent of Change UK

The agent of change principle puts the burden of noise mitigation on developers moving into an area where pubs, clubs and other grassroots music venues are already operating. At the moment, this burden still lies with the venues, the operators of which can hardly afford any more costs on top of existing expenses.

“My short Bill is a modest and focused measure that would adopt the principle of agent of change into planning law,” said John Spellar MP, who read out the bill for the first time in parliament.

He continued: “That basically means that when buildings are converted to residential use or a new development is put up, the onus is on the developer—not the venue—to ensure that the new dwellings are protected from factors, particularly noise, that could be held to affect their general amenity and enjoyment.”

He made sure to explain to his fellow politicians the importance of grassroots music venues as one of the most important stepping stone in an artist’s career, and quoted Sir Paul McCartney, who said:

“Without the grassroots clubs, pubs and music venues my career could have been very different. If we don’t support music at this level, then the future of music in general is in danger.”

Spellar said, “We are in danger of taking away the ladder that has served both individual musicians and the music industry so well for so long. And what an industry—not only are domestic sales rising again, but we are second to the United States in international reach and sales. It is a huge boost to Britain’s standing around the world and our soft power—not to mention millions in overseas sales last year—let alone being a significant part of our tourism offer.”

He addressed the lack of headliners many promoters are concerned with as another reason to make sure the UK maintains a healthy amount of breeding grounds for up-and-coming talent. “There is a real concern that the industry is now depending on a great past, with a lot of grey hair around. Now, I declare an interest, as I am in favor of good representation of grey hair, but I also support refreshing the pipeline with new talent.

“There is a danger of mining, rather than farming, our musical heritage. Losing music venues also narrows a route of opportunity for working-class youngsters, many from our deprived inner cities and left-behind industrial towns.”

The first reading of the bill, which took place in the House of Commons, was received enthusiastically by the UK industry, by DHP Family, for example, which owns the Thekla in Bristol, England, a club threatened by a new residential development directly opposite the venue.

DHP’s head of compliance, Julie Tippins, commented: “DHP Family is delighted that the bill is going to a second stage. Now is the time for even more people in the music and licensed businesses to join in the campaign and get all our MPs supporting this bill.”

There’s still a way to go. The second reading will take place on Jan. 19, it then enters the committee stage, the report stage and is then read for a third time, before moving to the House of Lords, where all of those steps will be repeated.

Once that has been the case, amendments to the bill are considered, before it can finally receive Royal Assent.

In parliament, Stellar also addressed Brexit, saying that as the country was facing “an uncertain future, it is vital that Britain is made more efficient and effective across the board and that we maximize every possible advantage that Britain has. One of these is clearly our cultural and entertainment offer, not only in London but in our other great centers around the country, many of which, including Birmingham and Manchester, are attracting increasing foreign investment and work.”

He said that the living environment played a very important role when companies decided where to locate. “That is a question not only for companies, but for the staff they are seeking to attract, especially the highly mobile, technically skilled and talented international and multinational workforce, not least in our huge creative sector. The cultural and living environment is important to them. That means art galleries, theatres, concert halls, opera, ballet, football clubs, rugby clubs and other sporting environments, but it also means music venues and the street scene,” said Stellar.

The reading of the bill marks the next major victory for those campaigning for agent of change, with the Music Venue Trust leading the way. Another one was when London’s mayor Sadiq Khan included the agent of change rule in his draft London Plan.

Commenting on the latest developments, Mark Davyd, founder of the Music Venue Trust, simply wrote: “No further comment. A great day.”

The Music Venue Trust’s strategic director Beverly Whitrick provided the following statement to Pollstar: “Music Venue Trust would like to thank everyone who has supported the Agent of Change campaign so far and encourage anyone who has not yet done so to write to their MP to ask them to support the Bill.

MVT is all about collective working; we created the Music Venues Alliance to bring an end to grassroots music venues working in isolation and create a voice for the sector. We are happy that today proves how powerful collective working can be. Thank you to every venue, artist, music fan, politician, industry body and company who has supported MVT to date.”