Scottish Album of the Year winner Auntie Flo launches campaign to lift 'background music' ban

A year ago he was crowned with one of the most prestigious honours in Scottish culture.
Auntie Flo is the reigning holder of the Scottish Album of the Year title. Picture: Rob JonesAuntie Flo is the reigning holder of the Scottish Album of the Year title. Picture: Rob Jones
Auntie Flo is the reigning holder of the Scottish Album of the Year title. Picture: Rob Jones

Now he is battling to help prevent its music industry from collapse.

Brian d’Souza, the winner of the coveted Scottish Album of the Year title, is demanding the Scottish Government reverse restrictions on the playing of background music in bars and restaurants, and also allow live events to return.

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The record label owner, producer and DJ, who performs under the name Auntie Flo, has launched his own #bringbackourmusic campaign.

He said the music ban was having a “devastating effect” on both the hospitality industry and on musicians who are losing out on royalties at a time when they are unable to take part in live events.

His campaign was launched as the countdown began to the announcement of the contenders for this year’s Scottish Album of the Year winner. The annual competition, which going ahead this year despite the shutdownof the music industry, is backed by the Scottish Government’s own arts agency, Creative Scotland.

A ban on background music being played in hospitality venues was introduced by the Scottish Government on 14 August to reduce the risk of people spreading coronavirus from shouting at each other.

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Mr d’Souza also runs his own background music agency, which works with clients as varied as the SSE Hydro and restaurant groups G1, Montpeliers and Di Maggios.

He said: “Musicians no longer rely on record sales for income - our two main sources are gigs and royalties.

“As soon as lockdown happened our gigs evaporated overnight and now this ban on music will significantly impact on our royalty payments too.”

The petition, which has been backed by more than 300 people in the space of 24 hours, states: “The ban on music in Scotland is having a devastating impact for venues and musicians.

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“With no scientific evidence for the ban reducing the spread of COVID-19, operators and musicians are calling for the ban to be overturned.

“To ensure the impacts to public health are minimised, we propose a two-phased approach, allowing background music to return at a level of 70dB(A) - the advised level by leading acousticians and the full reintroduction of music as ‘entertainment’ as soon as it is safe to do so.

Nick Stewart, manager of Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh, and Scottish Co-ordinator for the UK-wide Music Venues Alliance, said: “Background music is safer than a music ban, and with experts on our side, we can 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.

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“Metering is easy and can be done with a cheap device or a phone app. Licensing standards officers and environmental health officers could do it just as easily as operators and staff.”

The Scottish Government has insisted that that restrictions on background music are needed “because of the increased risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets when people raise their voices.”