News: Scottish Government Criticised For Proposed Ban On Background Music In Venues

Clearly, people shouldn’t be shouting over loud music at this time, so a nuanced position is exactly right. But that doesn’t justify starting with a ban…

…As a compromise, there should be controlled background music, set to a maximum of 70db(A).

Nick Stewart
Owner of Sneaky Pete’s
Member of the Music Venue Trust

As lockdowns begin to ease around the world, governments are working to figure out best ways to support the arts and hospitality sectors; specifically bars, venues and nightclubs – which are unfortunately in the spotlight as areas that pose a higher risk of transmission of the virus than other public spaces. They are also two industries that have been hit the hardest during the pandemic.

In Scotland, the government are reviewing a proposed bill that would allow for background music to be banned in venues, as a means to make it easier to speak to one another without having to raise their voice over the music – as this could mean a higher rate of transmission following a recent outbreak in Aberdeen. However, the Scottish government has received backlash for this proposal, arguing that the idea of an all out ban is “misguided”.

Nick Stewart, owner of the nightclub ‘Sneaky Pete’s’ who is also a member of the Music Venue Trust (whom we’ve mentioned before in regards to their fight for the survival of grassroots venues) challenged the proposal for a ban.

While he criticized the government for their proposal, he also acknowledged the safety measures necessary to protect public health and safety. Speaking to the Edinburgh Evening News, Stewart said:

The Scottish Government has introduced guidance with measures, such as contract tracing, that have allowed hospitality venues to reopen safely. We are in favour of those, they should be properly enforced.

Venues that flouted those rules caused the temporary lockdown in Aberdeen, and we really don’t want to see that happen elsewhere. Public safety is a huge priority for us and we wouldn’t reopen if we didn’t think we could be safe.

He argues however, that the complete ban on background music does not have scientific basis and should instead be controlled by lowering decibel level of the music to 70dB(A), as a compromise and more nuanced approach, with the research of expert acousticians to be brought in to prove it.

We don’t want loud music in pubs just yet, not until it’s safe, but zero music is not a safer approach either – because it’s proven that it’s the sound of other people’s voices that makes people talk more loudly, not controlled background music.

Sadly, the Government got this exactly backwards – so we hope they will review this as soon as possible.”

Nick Stewart

Feature Image: Free to use image via Kristina Flour on Unsplash

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