At a glance
  • The ISM was set up in 1882 by an organist named James Dawber
  • Now, over 130 years later, the ISM supports nearly 8,500 musicians from all areas of the profession, including performers, composers, music teachers, music administrators, music technology professionals and portfolio musicians
5th February 2018

The ISM: The UK’s professional body for musicians

The ISM Lark Music

The Incorporated Society of Musicians – or the ISM – is the UK’s professional body for musicians.

Where did we come from? 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 renamed the Incorporated Society of Musicians, was established with the vision to promote the art of music and support professional musicians.

Now, over 130 years later, the ISM supports nearly 8,500 musicians from all areas of the profession, including performers, composers, music teachers, music administrators, music technology professionals and portfolio musicians. We support our members 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.

But it is also our wonderful members – the musicians who make up the very grassroots of our profession and the industry – who we ensure we do the very best for, who have made us the organisation we are today.

ISM membership

Our three main types of membership are:

Full membership

Graduate membership (for musicians who have graduated from a music degree in the past ten years)

Student membership (for musicians who are currently studying music at degree level)

What do you get as part of ISM membership?

As part of your ISM membership – across all three grades – you get:

  • direct access to one-to-one legal advice and representation from our specialist in-house team 
  • public liability insurance cover up to £10,000,000
  • legal expenses insurance cover up to £100,000
  • professional listings to help you promote yourself and get work
  • an unpaid fees service to recover overdue payments owed to you in relation to your work
  • unlimited discounted insurance on any number of musical instruments and equipment of any value
  • DBS Disclosure service
  • hundreds of discounts to save you money on personal and musical products and services 
  • access to an active community of musicians who you can meet and share ideas with
  • award-winning professional development events at our discounted members rate
  • tax support services including a daytime helpline and a discounted tax return completion service
  • enhanced professional status – you will be entitled to use our letters after your name to demonstrate your professional status and enhance your profile

Friend of the ISM Trust

If you wish to join the ISM but do not feel you would use the above benefits, you can join us as a Friend of the ISM Trust, a new charity set up by the ISM to promote and safeguard music.

As an ISM Trust friend you will receive:

  • a regular friends e-newsletter inviting you to events and keeping you up to date with the work of the Trust
  • discounted rates for our professional development seminars and events
  • access to hundreds of discounts on concert and cinema tickets, holidays and spa breaks, travel insurance, music software, sheet music, music books, recordings, meals out, and even your weekly shop
  • an online subscription to the ISM's prestigious bi-monthly magazine, Music Journal
  • access to online resources including invaluable advice and template documents for musicians
  • the knowledge that your membership subscription is directly supporting the work of the ISM Trust.

Find out more about the ISM at: www.ism.org and the ISM Trust at: www.ismtrust.org