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Brewery bans music in their pubs

Sam Smiths brewery in the UK has banned music in their bars and pubs. Amazing but true. This includes background music, juke boxes, karaoke, television and, yes, live music. Whether the ban covers spontaneous drunken singing is not yet clear...

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Sam Smiths brewery in the UK has banned music in their bars and pubs. Amazing but true. This includes background music, juke boxes, karaoke, television and, yes, live music. Whether the ban covers spontaneous drunken singing is not yet clear.

The reason for the ban is apparently that the brewery needs to cut costs to compete with supermarket sales of beer. By banning music, they save the costs of having a PRS (Performing Right Society) licence, the proceeds from which contribute to the income of songwriters and composers.

The odd thing is how little they save...

  • Television in bar area up to 120 sq m - £59.91
  • CD player in bar area up to 120 sq m - £149.80
  • Audio jukebox, bar area up to 120 sq m - £175.92
  • Live music per session for the first 100 persons capacity - £6.84
  • £6.84 x 52 weeks = £355.68 per year

So removing a CD player from the bar area saves just under £150 ($300), which is less than 50p ($1) a day! That would be about the profit margin on a single Martini wouldn't it?

Clearly, if a business is suffering from competition, it has to cut costs wherever it can. But to the point of spoiling the customer experience? Televisions for instance pull people into pubs - the atmosphere of watching an important match on a large screen in a lively pub is second only to being there.

Likewise, karaoke night is always a big drawer. And the juke box is there to liven up slow evenings.

And let us not forget the band.

All I can say is that Sam Smiths' beer had better be damned good because it seems like it is the only thing they have going for them. Not that I'm likely to find out - I have imposed a ban on myself from going into pubs where music is not welcome.

Here is a comment from company chairman, Humphrey Smith:

Our small brewery's decision to end all activities in our pubs that make premises liable to the Performing Rights levy has, unfortunately, caused a lot of customer unhappiness. Many have objected to the loss of TV's, particularly the racing on Channel 4; many have objected to the loss of jukeboxes and/or muzac; some have objected to the loss of live entertainment as in your case and situation.

I can only apologize. Rightly or wrongly our small brewery's whole strategy and objective is to keep our brewery open and producing and offering secure employment for the very long term.

This Christmas many beers in pubs have been selling at five times the price of their canned equivalents in supermarkets. Sales of beer in supermarkets take a higher and higher proportion of what is a static or falling beer market. We have apart from duty increases largely held our market beer prices since 1990.

We do not find it practicable, in making savings that many of our existing customers object to, for these measures to be applied selectively. We only feel able to apply them to all the licensed premises we operate, so that each pub operates on a level playing field, or with equal constraints.

I can only apologize again

YS

Humphrey R W Smith

By David Mellor Tuesday March 29, 2005
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