A guide to putting on live music at your pub

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Putting on a show: Research shows hospitality has an appetite for live music (Credit: Getty/FG Trade)
Putting on a show: Research shows hospitality has an appetite for live music (Credit: Getty/FG Trade)

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Research shows putting on gigs can boost trade, so we’ve spoke to experts on what you need to do if you want to start putting on live music at your pub.

Around 87% of venues plan to increase their music offering in 2024, while nine in 10 artists expect to gig more often in hospitality venues, the Live Music Index survey revealed.

Meanwhile, analysis showed an estimated 33% uplift and 36% footfall rise when artists and DJs gig.

Kit Muir-Rogers, GigPig UK co-founder. said the benefits for pubs wanting to dip their toes into the live music market are clear.

He is on the mission to “make every venue a stage”.

Music drives footfall and revenue to pubs, and while many venues may have food and drink, music is often the reason why people stay, according to Muir-Rogers.

GigPig can help venues to source musicians that are the right fit for pubs.

Muir-Rogers said: “What operators want to know is, if I put music on in my venue, is that going to be a success? So we’ve created a tool for them to be able to dive straight and have that support in a streamlined way.”

The platform matches up the right venues with the right artists based on their budget.

Driving success

“Fundamentally we want every gig to be a success for the operator, and especially for the artists as well. Both sides of the marketplace are operating in a challenging time, so we want it to be a success, and it’s about matching the right artists with the right venues and supporting them in getting that work," added Muir-Rogers.

He said deciding what music to put on was all about listening to your customer base. If 60% of your guests like jazz, perhaps a heavy metal gig is not the right fit, for instance.

Then he said it is important to consider the size of the venue, and what it can accommodate in terms of performance.

One pub in Bexleyheath, the King’s Arms, has put on live music every Friday and Saturday night for around four years, and also runs music events for special occasions like Christmas, St Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day or gin festivals.

The music at the south-east London pub is kept very consistent in terms of style. Artists play anything from the 80s and beyond and tend to stick to tunes people know and love.

Each evening kicks off with a mellow set before progressing to more upbeat music and ending with a bit more of a party vibe.

Operator Pete Marshall said choosing the right music for a venue is very pub specific, as you have to find out what works best for you.

He added that consistency is key. The King’s Arms experimented with blues music, different singers, and pianists, before settling on music that fit the flow of the evening.

Marshall takes a lot of care to source good artists who fit with the vibe of the pub. They are invited down to see a live music night, so they can get a sense of what is required.

Quite a lot of the pub’s acts have been booked via a music agent Sunday SouLounge, and it has set pricing within this.

Marshall also offered advice in terms of marketing. Social media is the main way to market live music, he said, and the pub also had posters shouting about its events.

“Consistency is imperative,” he said. “In my experience it’s not about marketing, it’s the fact we’ve always got live music on, and people know this, and that’s where we win more than other places.”

If you want to put on live music, it’s also important you do it properly, he continued. You’ve got to look at the music setup, the sound system, where you’re going to put the music and the style of the music.

The legal bit

But what are the legalities surrounding live music in pubs? Let's ask Poppleston Allen.

Live Music Act (The Act) came into force on 1 October 2012 and deregulates live music.

Furthermore, the Legislative Reform (Entertainment Licensing) Order 2014 came in force from 6 April 2015, and this further deregulates live music and recorded music.

The Act removes the licensing requirements for live music and recording music where:

-        There is a premises licence or club premises certificate in place permitting ‘on sales’

-        The premises are open for the sale or supply of alcohol for consumption on the premises

-        Live or recorded music is taking place between 8am and 11pm

-        If the music is amplified live music or recorded music (e.g. DJs or disco for example), the audience consists of no more than 500 people

The Act also disapplies any live music – and recorded music-related conditions which appear on your premises licence, providing the above criteria are satisfied.

However, if the live music – and recorded music-related conditions have been re-imposed as part of a licence Review then they will apply and need to be complied with.

If live amplified music is taking place in an area not shown on your licensed layout plans, such as in a beer garden, it is still not licensable due to the ‘workplace’ exemption under the Act (between 8am and 11pm), but this does not apply to recorded music.

If the music is unamplified live music, providing it takes place between the hours of 8am and 11pm, it is not licensable anywhere regardless of the number of people in the audience.

The Act also removed the licensing requirements for so-called ‘entertainment facilities’, which covered items like microphone stands, dancefloors and amplifiers.

These are no longer licensable in any way, although they do sometimes still appear (erroneously) on licences that have not been updated.

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