Incorporated Society of Musicians

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Incorporated Society of Musicians
FoundedJuly 25, 1882; 139 years ago (1882-07-25)
United Kingdom
Area served
United Kingdom
Key people
  • Deborah Annetts (CEO)
  • Deborah Keyser (President, 2021-2022)
  • Chris Collins (President, 2020-2021)
  • Vick Bain (President Elect)

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is the UK's professional body for musicians, a subject association for music education and is an independent non profit-making organisation.

The ISM was set up in 1882 to promote the importance of music and protect the rights of those working within music. It is an independent, not-for-profit membership organisation which has almost 11,000 individual members and over 180 corporate members. It protects and supports its members by providing them with expert advice, insurance and specialist services as well as access to a community of like-minded professionals and the status that comes with being a member of a professional body.[1]

Members of the ISM come from all over the music profession and from a variety of different musical backgrounds. The membership also includes recent graduates and part-time and full-time music students.

The ISM also campaigns for the rights of all musicians and in support of the music profession.

A survey by the Incorporated Society of Musicians found that 60% of the respondents had experienced sexual harassment.[2]


The ISM has a membership of almost 11,000 music professionals including performers, composers, music teachers, music administrators, music technology professionals and portfolio musicians,[3] and provides different levels of membership for students and graduates, orchestras, education bodies and those who are interested in supporting their work.[4]

Notable members[edit]

The ISM's current members include Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Mark Elder, Sir James Galway, Dame Felicity Lott, Judith Weir CBE, Suzi Digby OBE, Betty Roe OBE, Julian Lloyd Webber, Julian Bream, Andy Boyd, Paul Harris, John McCabe, Gerald Finley, and Craig Ogden.


The ISM supports its members through expert legal assistance from a specialist in-house legal team and a 24-hour legal and tax helpline, comprehensive insurance including public liability insurance, legal expenses insurance, and discounted musical instrument insurance; practical advice from the ISM's staff team (most of whom are musicians) and access to online advice pages; free promotion through the ISM Music Directory, the UK's only online directory of professional musicians with proven credentials; professional development events including seminars, webinars and conferences; access to a community of like-minded professionals, and financial help from its Members Fund in times of hardship.

More benefits of membership can be found on the ISM's website.


In its work to protect musicians' rights and support the profession across the sector, the ISM campaigns and lobbies to make their views known to policy makers.

Bacc for the Future[edit]

The ISM led a successful campaign to secure the place of music in the English Baccalaureate as part of a sixth pillar of creative and cultural subjects. The campaign achieved nearly 50,000 signatures to a petition and support from over 110 organisations. On 7 February 2013 the Government withdrew its EBC proposals and introduced a new performance measure for schools that will include creative subjects.[5]

In 2015, the campaign was relaunched in response to the Department for Education's proposal to implement the English Baccalaureate as a headline accountability measure in schools.[6] The campaign is supported by 100,000+ individual signatories and over 200 organisations from across the creative industries including Aardman Animations, Shakespeare's Globe, The BRIT School, The Design Council and more. The campaign has recently debated the issue of the EBacc and its exclusion of creative subjects in the Houses of Parliament.[7]

Beyond 1900[edit]

In 2014, the Government launched a consultation on the new GCSE, AS and A level in music. While the aims of the reforms were positive, the Government defined only one area of study: ‘music composed in the western classical tradition between 1700 and 1900.’ The ISM stated, 'not only does this artificial time-frame make no musical sense but musicians of the future will only be able to study classical music written before 1700 and after 1900 if they take this as a separate area of study, and the overall effect of the reforms will do little to support and encourage musicality. And it could even have a detrimental effect on musicianship and the study of musical genres.'

The ISM subsequently the 'Beyond 1990' campaign, urging the music sector to respond to the consultation]

Protect Music Education[edit]

In 2013 the ISM launched the campaign Protect Music Education [8] calling for confirmed funding for music education hubs from 2015, and for the Government to drop its proposal advising local authorities to cease funding music education. It united the music sector, gaining the support of 134 organisations from across the music sector,[9] 5,000 individuals and many distinguished musicians.

On 22 July 2014, the campaign was deemed a double success, with £75million of funding for music education in 2015/16 secured,[10] and the Government backing down on its proposal.[11]

Instruments on planes[edit]

An ongoing campaign to help musicians travel by air with confidence, taking fragile, hand-held instruments in the cabin as part of hand baggage allowance.[12] easyJet announced a more musician-friendly hand baggage policy following discussions with the ISM.[13]


The ISM holds memberships with many industry bodies, including the British Copyright Council, Council for Subject Associations,[14] Creative Coalition Campaign, Creators' Rights Alliance, Educational Recording Agency, Music Education Council, National Campaign for the Arts and the National Music Council.


In 1976, under President Ida Carroll,[15] the ISM established the Distinguished Musician Award to acknowledge outstanding contributions to British musical life.

Recipients have included: Malcolm Arnold, Janet Baker, Sarah Connolly, Pierre Boulez, Adrian Boult, Julian Bream, Janet Craxton, Peter Maxwell Davies, Colin Davis, Norman Del Mar, Jacqueline du Pré, Mark Elder, James Galway, Alexander Gibson, Evelyn Glennie, Reginald Goodall, Charles Groves, Christopher Hogwood, Witold Lutosławski, Charles Mackerras, George Malcolm, John McCabe, Antonio Pappano, Peter Pears, Simon Rattle, John Stephens, Michael Tippett, William Walton, Fanny Waterman, Judith Weir, David Willcocks, Julian Lloyd-Webber and Oliver Knussen.


  1. ^ "About Us section". Incorporated Society of Musicians. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  2. ^ Maddocks, Fiona (December 10, 2017). "Fiona Maddocks's best classical music of 2017" – via
  3. ^ "ISM: what we do".
  4. ^ "Join us". ISM.
  5. ^ "Bacc for the Future". Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  6. ^ "Consultation on implementing the English Baccalaureate" (PDF). 2015. Retrieved 2020-09-02.
  7. ^ "".
  8. ^ "Protect Music Education". Protect Music Education.
  9. ^ "Our supporters". Protect Music Education.
  10. ^ public 0370 000 2288, Central newsdesk-for journalists 020 7783 8300 General enquiries- for members of the. "More funding to help thousands of extra children enjoy music". GOV.UK.
  11. ^ "Written Ministerial Statement DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION School funding" (PDF). Retrieved 2020-09-02.
  12. ^ "Instruments on planes". Archived from the original on 22 June 2012. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
  13. ^ "Music to their ears". Retrieved 24 October 2012.
  14. ^ "Council for Subject Associations: ISM". Retrieved 24 October 2012.
  15. ^ Turner, John (3 October 1995). "Lasting strength of Ida 's tunes". The Guardian. p. 16.

External links[edit]