ISM and challenges and opportunities for new musicians

The ISM's Francesca Treadaway explores the challenges and opportunities facing new musicians in 2018...


There are a number of issues new musicians need to be aware of when entering the music industry.

As the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), we are a professional body well-placed to support you to meet these challenges head on.

Who are we? Well, we support an 8,000 strong (and growing) membership of performers, composers, music teachers, music administrators, music technology professionals and portfolio musicians with services including specialist legal and tax advice, template contracts, comprehensive insurances, professional development expertise and discounts aplenty – as well as fearlessly protecting musicians, the music profession as a whole and the wider industry.

Keep up to date with developments by following us on Twitter @ISM_music or by visiting our website at Here are two issues that could impact you: 


We know from our members and the wider sector that the biggest threat facing musicians and their work is Brexit. Our surveys of the music profession – inside and outside the ISM membership – unveiled some concerning figures:

  • 70 percent of performers travel overseas for their work.
  • Some travel to the continent upwards of 40 times a year, making on average seven trips a year to other countries in the EU for on average eight days.
  • Some tours last 90 days, almost three months, with eight percent of musicians travelling to Europe putting their longest trip as 30 days or more.
  • UK-based musicians were 25 percent more likely to travel to the EU than to the rest of the world.
  • Almost 60 percent of professional musicians (responding to a unique series of ISM surveys receiving more than 1,360 responses between them) believe that protecting flexible travel for professional musicians and artists should be the top priority for the government in the context of Brexit.

Joint with the a-n The Artists Information Company, we have launched #FreeMoveCreate to secure flexible travel for all creators including musicians post-Brexit.

Shut down of music venues

As the Music Venue Trust reported in September's Classical Music Magazine (read the September edition which is guest edited by the ISM) since 2007, more than 35 percent of trading venues have closed, representing tens of thousands of lost performance opportunities for artists, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of audience experiences, and incalculable cost to the future prosperity and cultural significance of British music.

Music Venue Trust says: "It’s not an exaggeration to say that the future of the whole network of venues is in doubt", and the challenges it faces are starting to manifest themselves in the rest of the industry: The average age of festival headliners of major UK music festivals is increasing at the rate of one year every year. Their conclusion: "We will reach a statistical vanishing point; Coldplay will headline Glastonbury every year, forever".

ISM membership

Now, you might be only interested in our discounts and lobbying against the government, and might not be able to imagine needing specialist legal and tax advice, template contracts, insurances and professional development. But you, as a musician, are a small business. And being a small business means being on top of these matters.

Our services move alongside musicians and are adapted to their needs and concerns. Need fast contract advice? We are here. The three types of insurance that every musician needs – PLI, employer’s liability insurance and legal expenses insurance – we provide them. Professional development? Our members tell us what they want to learn and we do the rest.

To start with, make sure you have a copy of our special composers and performers packs.

  • The ISM Composers Pack is our essential digital resource for all composers. The pack includes advice, checklists and template contracts to help you as a composer protect your rights and get a fair deal when offered a commissioning opportunity, publishing or synchronisation agreement.
  • The ISM Performers’ Pack brings together top tips, invaluable advice from our experts, and a template contract to help you further your career as a performer and navigate the world of promoters, venues, booking agents and festivals with confidence.

Students can join the ISM for only £15 a year – the cost of a few coffees or a (small) round at the pub – and receive the same benefits as a full member.

Visit for more information.

Join us to study music in London in 2018

 If you want to take advantage of these international opportunities and expand your networks, then join us on a course here at ICMP London. 

Our Admissions Team are on hand to help find the right course for you, call them on 020 7328 0222 or email  

find YOUR course

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

by Francesca Treadaway, ISM
January 2, 2018
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