Agent of Change was tentatively introduced by Labour MP John Spellar and then Sadiq Khan in the 2017 London Plan. It has since seen a growing campaign of support from high profile names across the music industry. After a short campaign, it received official backing from the UK government. But what is Agent of Change and how does it affect live music venues?
What is it?
In brief, Agent of Change leaves the responsibility of soundproofing new domestic buildings within the vicinity of music venues to the property developer and/or landlord, instead of the music venue itself.
The numbers are doing the rounds in the news right now: in the last decade, 35% of live music venues have closed their doors. The inference is that this has occurred in part due to domestic noise complaints in rapidly expanding, regenerating areas that successful bars often find themselves in.
With falling pub figures and inflation hitting disposable incomes hard, the UK’s leisure industry is not at encouraging levels. Agent of Change was thus introduced as a concept.
The music industry is a valuable one in 21st Century UK. It contributes an avg. est. of £4 billion per year, and has been rising in recent years. Of that, live music alone generates 25%.
The meteoric rise in media coverage has come from the pedigree of supporters Agent of Change has found. Paul McCartney, Billy Bragg, members of Pink Floyd, and several MPs, have lent their names to the cause in favour of seeing the legislation through.
What are music venues saying about AGENT OF CHANGE?
The music industry has universally applauded the plan, for obvious reasons. It is regarded as a progressive and positive step to keeping the local music scenes ticking. We need to adopt a more coordinated approach, with everyone working to make Liverpool city centre a vibrant place to work, live & visit.
Agent of Change, alongside city wide strategies, such as setting up a Liverpool Music Office, are routes to advocating for the value of live music venues in our city.
Is it backed by law?
Not yet, but UK and Scottish Governments have both agreed to include it in this year’s (2018) amendment of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Agent of Change has seen almost universal approval, not only from the music industry, from the construction industry as well.
The NPPF have already introduced it into its NPPF guidance, in anticipation of it becoming law. This followed the findings of a 2017 House of Lords Select Committee. Tasked with evaluating current venue laws (Licensing Act 2003), they found them inadequate and disruptive to the industry.
How will it affect the Baltic Triangle?
Live music and events are a massive part of the Baltic Triangle’s everyday life. Event spaces, such as Constellations and 24 Kitchen Street are as much a part of the area’s growth as the music industry is to the UK economy. Not only do music venues aid the Baltic’s financial structure, but they are all fantastic spaces to share passions, get people together and celebrate the music industry that we all know and love in our city.
It also helps people to discover and enjoy new artists and bands without having to leave Liverpool. Music venues bring new faces and grant exposure to the city.
In order for the campaign to change anything, Agent Of Change needs more support! The campaign already has thousands of voices standing up for the movement, such as Craig David and Sir Paul McCartney. But, we need more voices to create a serious impact and better chances when it faces parliament in the Spring.
The public’s voices are vital in the immediate future of this. It’s clear that the next steps for this campaign is to get as many people supporting as possible. James Zaremba, content coordinator for Constellations gives his thoughts:
‘As is duly noted by both UK Music and the Music Venue Trust, the administration of ‘Agent of Change’ into the government’s National Planning Policy Framework must now be observed with watchful eyes.’
‘While the government has issued a formal allegiance to the policy, it is now the duty of the public to ensure that ‘Agent of Change’ is adopted to the fullest degree possible, with no loopholes or cut-throughs left available to developers.’
‘One of the most effective actions any member of the music community could take today, with very little trouble, would be to email their local MP, requesting that they take a particular interest in the matter.’
For Liverpool, Riverside – Mrs Louise Ellman MP is your first point of contact on this matter. She can be reached on the e-mail address of: firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s keep our venues going and our music scene, which is like no other in the world, alive.
Words by Catherine Hogben and Neal Oade