Eight page form will detail names, aliases, private addresses, phone numbers of all musicians and ethnic background of the likely audience
Tuesday, Dec 2, 2008
Musicians and performers in London will soon be required by law to complete and hand over to police an eight page form detailing all their personal information and the ethnic background of their audience if they want to perform.
The information will be collected by venue owners and managers throughout the city, who will have to adhere to the process should they wish to promote live music.
Failure to comply with the information demanded on Form 696 could mean the loss of a licence or even a fine and imprisonment, reports the London Independent .
Police quietly introduced the legislation in 2006, and have recently defended it, saying they need the details in order to ensure safety and “identify troublemakers”.
Groups of musicians and promoters have slammed the move , suggesting that it will harm the live music scene and encourages venues to effectively spy on patrons. Others have described the bureaucratic process as a form of racial discrimination. There are also fears that the legislation will be applied throughout the country if it is accepted in the capital.
The Musicians’ Union is consulting lawyers over the invasion of privacy, while another group, UK Music is seeking a judicial review.
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As with most recent legislative erosions of civil liberties, form 696 is a phenomenon of the culture of fear our governments have consistently fashioned and promoted over the past decade. In a post 9/11 / post 7/7 world, everyone is treated as a suspect until proven otherwise, especially if you have brown skin and a foreign sounding name.
Musicians and performers are no exception.
Take the case of The Clash tribute band member Mike Devine who was arrested at his office in Bristol and taken away for questioning after he sent an SMS text message  containing lyrics from the song Tommy Gun to his lead singer who had forgotten the words.
The message read:
“How about this for Tommy Gun? OK – SO LET’S AGREE ABOUT THE PRICE AND MAKE IT ONE JET AIRLINER AND TEN PRISONERS”
A terrorism analyst told reporters that the interception provided proof that Britain’s spy teams at GCHQ were actively monitoring all vocal and textual mobile phone traffic.
That was 2004, now in 2008 the British Government has openly announced  that it wants to make that very practice lawful.
In a similar incident, Harraj Mann was reported to the British airport police for listening to a Clash record  in a taxi on the way to the airport. The weasel driver was so frightened by some of the lyrics that he took them as a rallying call for a terrorist attack.
Of course it is unlikely that the police or the government will raise an eyebrow to the mindless gibberish  passing for lyrical content in the majority of musical performers’ work.
Ask yourself, who is more likely to be classed as the “troublemaker”? Will it be the performers who sing endlessly about money, bling and easy girls or will it be those who wish to address real issues and make their audiences think about more than the pursuit of expensive baubles and trinkets?
Sign a petition  to the Prime Minister Gordon Brown to get the Metropolitan Police to scrap the use of Form 696.
Facebook Group  – Stand Up To Form 696