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Peace Humphrey Smith - destroyer of British folk music (39) RE: Humphrey Smith - destroyer of British folk music 14 Oct 09

Sam Smiths Music Ban
At the end of November 2004 Sam Smiths brewery banned all music, live and recorded, in their pubs. You can follow the history of this decision at or in the "Sam Smiths brewery bans live music" thread in the newsgroup.

We've written to the chairman of Sam Smiths, Humphrey Smith, but we've not yet had a reply ( text of YFA letter ). Mr Smith's reply to another correspondent is quoted on
Thank you for your letter of January 6th.

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


Humphrey R W Smith
It is not precisely clear what chairman Humphrey Smith means by "the Performing Rights levy". PRS, the Performing Right Society, collects royalties on behalf of composers, songwriters and publishers, while PPL, Phonographic Performance Limited, collects royalties on behalf of record companies and performers.

The issue of PRS fees is complicated but could be negotiated between clubs using the pubs and the landlord. Current annual fees are
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
Quite how banning music will make the brewery more competitive with supermarkets is not immediately obvious.

Some of the consequences in Yorkshire of the Smiths ban will be

Folk, jazz and all party sessions will cease at Nellie's, Beverley. The White Horse Folk Club's last meeting there will be on 17 January 2005 (check our directory for details of their new venue), and see

Performances of the Sheffield Carols at the Travellers in Oughtibridge will have to end.

Whitby Folk Week will no longer be able to use The Plough for singarounds. Whitby Folk Club has moved to the Friendship Rowing Club.
What can we do?

Mr Smith is entitled to decide where he positions his pubs in the marketplace, but any loss of venues for live music is bad news. If you wish to protest and point out the economic consequences of losing thirsty musicians and audiences, write to

Humphrey Smith
Samuel Smith's Brewery
North Yorkshire
LS24 9SB

January 2005


Sam Smiths Music Ban (2)
YFA's letter to the brewery:

Humphrey Smith
Samuel Smith's Brewery
North Yorkshire
LS24 9SB

11 January 2005

Dear Mr Smith

Yorkshire Folk Arts supports, develops and raises awareness of the traditional folk arts of the British Isles within the Yorkshire and Humber region; chiefly those which operate in a public and social context, such as music, dance, song, storytelling and drama.

Traditional pubs are an essential home for these activities, which draw in many customers, in addition to the performers, on nights which would otherwise not be particularly busy, especially if it is to a full 'club' event. There are also thousands of musicians and singers throughout Yorkshire who enjoy informal music sessions in pubs and folk clubs.

These occasions are not just for entertainment: musicians and singers swap tunes and songs, and develop their skills and repertoire. Music sessions provide unique opportunities for new and experienced performers to practise their art, improve their performance, and keep a much-loved tradition alive and flourishing. They can also provide a welcome low-key musical background, enjoyed by many customers who dislike loud 'piped' music and who may not otherwise have heard non-mainstream music, particularly in such a relaxed setting.

People who like real, live music typically like real beer in traditional pubs. They form a loyal group of thirsty customers. They're already worried that the Licensing Act will restrict their choice of venues, and so I was especially sorry to hear of your decision to ban music in your pubs. Musicians will lose not just famous venues such as Nellie's (The White Horse Inn, Beverley, East Yorkshire) - where I've enjoyed many a pint and many a tune during the last 34 years - but they will also be excluded from many local pubs; a sad loss to them, to music and to the tradition of the pub as a social centre.

I respect your right to choose which facilities you offer in your premises. I sympathise with any landlord who may face increased fees because of bureaucratic changes (which, incidentally, we have campaigned against and will continue to do so). But I hope I may persuade you to think again. The fallout from this decision will be a substantial reduction in opportunities for live music in Yorkshire pubs. Folk arts are an essential part of our heritage: it's more important than ever to keep Yorkshire musical traditions alive - and your pubs have an important part to play in this.

Yours sincerely

Paul Hudson
Chairman, Yorkshire Folk Arts

Both above letters are from the Yorkshire Folkarts site.

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