At your service8:00, 4th September 2017
The Incorporated Society of Musicians has been representing the needs and concerns of the music profession for 135 years. Its power to lobby government and campaign for change is needed now more than ever, as the uncertainties of Brexit loom and concerns about education policy cast a deep shadow over the future of music in schools. Our guest editor in this issue is Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the ISM, who highlights the challenges that lie ahead for everyone involved in the music profession, and how each of us can make a difference to the future of the industry
It is a huge privilege to be a guest editor of the September issue of Classical Music magazine and we want to thank Rhinegold Publishing for inviting us to take part. We have really enjoyed putting together this special focus.
So, who are the Incorporated Society of Musicians – or ISM? We are the UK’s professional body for musicians, and we were set up in 1882 by an organist named James Dawber. He was convinced that many of the problems affecting musicians in Victorian England would be unlikely to improve as long as they had no means of protecting their interests. Therefore, with fellow musician Dr Henry Hiles, rules for a proposed organisation were drawn up. On 7 October 1882, the Society of Professional Musicians, later the Incorporated Society of Musicians, was established with the vision to promote the art of music and support professional musicians.
Now, 135 years later, the ISM supports 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.
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.
The ISM’s endurance – through world wars, great depressions and various economic crises – can be put down almost entirely to our illustrious roster of past presidents including Thomas Beecham, Malcolm Sargent, Evelyn Barbirolli and Yehudi Menuhin. It is also our wonderful members – the musicians who make up the very grassroots of our profession and the industry – for whom we strive to do our very best, and who have made us the organisation we are today.
The ISM has been at the very forefront of the fight to raise standards in music education, protect music within our schools, ensure that composers and performers get paid properly, protecting live performance and funding, and – perhaps more obscurely but just as important – securing a better deal for musicians and their instruments when travelling by plane. 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% 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 8% of musicians travelling to Europe putting their longest trip as 30 days or more.
- UK based musicians were 25% more likely to travel to the EU than to the rest of
- Almost 60% 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.
There is no question that musicians live out of a suitcase and may have to take a gig overseas at the drop of a hat. Off the record comments from the BBC just a few weeks ago suggest that the BBC Proms – the largest music festival in the world – would be nigh on impossible without flexible travel between EU states.
One musician, speaking at the launch of #FreeMoveCreate, a campaign to protect flexible travel for musicians and other artists in light of Brexit, said that 50% of his work was in the EU. It is clear that without the right deal, the music profession will suffer. If you want to help our musicians, sign up at www.FreeMoveCreate.org.
Access for all
Diversity is a constant issue facing the world in which we work. This year, the excellent BBC Proms analysis by Women in Music (www.womeninmusic.org.uk) shows a mixed picture in the Proms line-up: there some improvements (12% of conductors are women in 2017, compared with 8.6% last year); and yet there have also been some steps back: when it came to new works, women composers commissioned by the BBC Proms went from 40% of the total in 2016 to 30.8% this year.
Diversity is closely linked to accessibility. We must make sure that music is truly accessible as a career option for all pupils of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Unfortunately, recently, the government chose to ignore the concerns of Sir Simon Rattle, Alison Balsom OBE, Robert Lindsay, Phillip Pullman, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Sir Tony Robinson, and hundreds of businesses and organisations by announcing its plans to press ahead with new school league tables, called the English Baccalaureate or EBacc, which exclude music and other arts subjects.
Even Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted, has spoken about the importance of a broad and balanced curriculum – which the EBacc is not: ‘We have a full and coherent national curriculum and it seems to me a huge waste not to use it properly,’ Spielman said. ‘The idea that children will not, for example, hear or play the great works of classical musicians or learn about the intricacies of ancient civilisations – all because they are busy preparing for a different set of GCSEs – would be a terrible shame. All children should study a broad and rich curriculum. Curtailing Key Stage 3 means prematurely cutting this off for children who may never have an opportunity to study some of these subjects again.’
This decision – against the evidence and against public opinion – has worrying implications for our creative industries as universities report fewer A-level students in music, and teachers report schools are dropping music as an option at GCSE altogether.
This decision cannot stand unchallenged, which is why the ISM opposes this harmful and misconceived policy decision through a comprehensive campaign called ‘Bacc for the Future’.
We know that several organisations are doing incredible and important work to close the gap and to improve accessibility. The latest announcement from the London Philharmonic Orchestra – which has expanded its LPO Junior Artists programme, adding a new strand for younger students from communities under-represented in professional UK orchestras – is particularly welcome. However, nothing will improve accessibility to music education quite like better provision in our schools.
If you want to help stand up for music education, we tell you how on page 81 and if you want to do more and find out more, visit www.BaccfortheFuture.com.
How you can help
You never know when you might be called upon to defend music. You never know when the loose assumption that music is a nice thing to have (rather than a world-class industry) will cross your path. Or something that ‘is only ever going to be a hobby’ as a BBC Radio 5 DJ recently suggested – apparently missing what it was his radio station, along with sister BBC stations, spends most of its time doing.
We are constantly reading how the music industry is worth billions. But behind the ten-figure numbers, we must remember that music is an undeniable right. It is our livelihood and it needs protecting.
As Friedrich Nietzche said, ‘Without music, life would be a mistake.’ I hope you enjoy this ISM focus in Classical Music magazine and that you will join us in our campaigns to promote the role of music in creating a fairer, healthier and happier society for everyone.