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Grassroots & Pubs

How to go about it

Pubs and Small venues

Small venues in England and Wales can now put on live music without a music licence thanks to the Live Music Act. Venues are covered under the terms of the Act if:

  • They are based in England or Wales
  • There is an existing alcohol licence
  • There are fewer than 500 people in the audience for amplified music. There is no audience limit for unamplified music.
  • The live music will not take place between the hours of 23.00 & 08.00

This is great news for grassroots music, especially in pubs. A study by PRS for Music reports that bars putting on live music see an increase in ‘wet sales’ of 44% over the weekend, peaking at 60% on Friday and Saturday nights, and are on average three times less likely to close.

Many, though, are either not aware of the Act or are still wary of putting on live music.

The MU therefore developed the Live Music Kit for you to take into local venues and start a conversation about hosting live music.

The Live Music Kit outlines the terms of the Act and explains how a live music programme can enhance a business. It also advises on the legislative, practical and creative elements involved in hosting live music, and features a range of resources, including performance contracts, health and safety issues, promotional advice and useful contacts.

Contact your Regional Office for a printed copy. 

Busking offers a way to earn a few extra quid between gigs and brush up your repertoire. If you get positive feedback from busking to largely indifferent audiences, you can honestly say that you're doing something right.

Jo Laverty, Regional Official

There is no easy route to busking when you have to check so many conflicting factors. We're currently working with the Mayor’s Office in London to develop a Code of Conduct for buskers that all can adhere to.

Dave Webster, National Organiser



  • Check before you play. Many areas have restrictions on where buskers can play and you might need to register or obtain a licence. Local authorities and private spaces all operate different policies. Your local council website should provide you with more information.
  • You may need Public Liability Insurance to busk in some places. You are automatically covered by Public Liability Insurance when you join the MU.
  • Try to tune in with your surroundings. Be sensitive to shopkeepers and the public around you, and control your volume.
  • Busking on the London Underground is famously well-policed. You will have to join a waiting list for one of the 270 licences available, pass an audition process and undergo a police background check. 
  • Our Guide to Busking in Liverpool   contains best practice for buskers, council officers, businesses and residents on everything from pitch selection to the best way of resolving issues. It's thought to be the first of its kind in the country, produced jointly by the MU, Liverpool City Council, Keep Streets Live and the Business Improvement District. 
  • If in doubt and you are an MU member, your Regional Office can advise. 

Related downloads

Fair Play Guide (PDF 617.65 bytes file opens in new window)

MU Live Music Kit (PDF 2.86 MB file opens in new window)

Busking Guide in Liverpool (PDF 1.64 MB file opens in new window)